Traffic jams and desperation at the border as Russians flee Putin's 'partial mobilization'

A line of cars at a checkpoint on the Russia-Georgia border on September 21, 2022.

(CNN)Vladimir Putin's "partial mobilization" of citizens for his war in Ukraine has already set in motion sweeping changes for many Russians, as drafted men bid their families emotional goodbyes, while others attempt to flee, scrambling to make it across land border crossings or buy air tickets out.

For many of those leaving, the reason is the same: to avoid being drafted into Putin's brutal and faltering assault on neighboring Ukraine. But the circumstances surrounding their decisions -- and the difficulties of leaving home -- are deeply personal to each.
For Ivan, a man who said he's an officer in Russia's reserves and left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motivation was clear: "I don't support what's going on, so I just decided that I had to leave right away," he told CNN.
    "I felt like the doors are closing and if I didn't leave immediately, I might not be able to leave later," Ivan said, adding he was thinking of a close friend back home with two little children who, unlike him, was unable to pack up and go.
      Alexey, a 29-year-old who arrived in Georgia from Russia via bus on Thursday, told CNN the decision was due in part to his roots.
        "(Half of) my family is Ukrainian ... I am not in reserves now, for this wave of mobilization, but I think if this goes on, all the men will be qualified," he said.
        Cars queue to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in the Leningrad Region of Russia on September 22.
        Putin declared on Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be drafted, as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted forces after a successful counter-offensive from Kyiv this month. The move is set to change the scope of Russia's invasion from an offensive fought largely by volunteers to one that embroils a larger swath of its population.
          The announcement unleashed a scramble for some Russians, with social media chatter on platforms like Telegram exploding with people frantically trying to figure out how to get seats in vehicles headed to the borders, with some even discussing going on bicycle.
          Long lines of traffic formed at land border crossings into several countries, according to video footage. Images on Kazakh media websites appeared to show vehicles backed up near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. In one, posted by Kazakh media outlet Tengri News, a person can be heard saying their vehicle has been "at a standstill for 10 hours" in Russia's Saratov region, as they try to make their way to Kazakhstan.
          "Endless cars. Everyone is running. Everyone is on the run from Russia," the person in the video can be heard saying. CNN cannot independently verify the videos.
          At the arrivals hall of Istanbul Airport on Friday, 18-year-old student Daniel told CNN of his plans to wait it out in Turkey. He flew into Turkey on Friday for what was meant to be a pre-booked holiday, but since the mobilization announcement, he has had to contend with a new life in the country.
          "We are young, we can learn and build a new life. We want to be useful. For now it is vacation and wait," he said about his plans with his girlfriend. "Since I am a student, technically I am not mobilized, but it can change. And we know our government lies to us. We are just meat for them," Daniel said.
          Software engineer Roman told CNN that he hastily bought his ticket to Turkey minutes after Putin's mobilization speech. He plans on going to Portugal, where he has been granted a visa.
          "War is terrible. I am strongly against this war. Everyone I know is against it. My friends, my family, nobody wants this war. Only politics want this war," he said, adding that his wife has had to stay in Russia as she does not have a Portuguese visa.
          "The only plan is to survive. I'm just scared," he added.
          Another Russian citizen, who declined to be named, described the war as useless and cruel, "it should never have started in the first place. And I'm sorry for the Ukrainians -- I sympathize with them." The divorcee will fly on Saturday to Israel without his two children, who are still in Russia.
          "I'm hoping to bring them to me when I am settled," he said. "I will try to move them out because Russia is certainly not the place for them."
          On Thursday, Kazakhstan's National Security Committee released a statement saying the borders were "under special control" but operating normally amid an "increase in the number of foreign citizens" entering the country. The number of passenger vehicles entering Kazakhstan from Russia had increased 20% since September 21, the country's State Revenue Committee said in a separate statement.
          On Finland's eastern border with Russia, traffic intensified overnight on Thursday, according to the Finnish border guard. Earlier that day, Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Parliament her government was ready to take action to put "an end" to Russian tourism and transit through Finland, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle.
          Many of those leaving appeared to be men. Women are not part of Russia's conscription.
          Travel agency websites also showed a dramatic increase in the demand for flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight sale websites indicate direct flights to such countries sold out through Friday at least, while anecdotal reports indicated people were having trouble finding ways to leave far past that time frame.
          At least two Russians who left the country, one via land and one via air, told CNN that departing men were being questioned by Russian authorities, with queries including whether they had had military training and others about Russia and Ukraine.
          "It was like a regular passport control, but every man at the queue was stopped and asked additional questions. They took a bunch of us to a room and asked questions mainly about (our) military (training)," Vadim, a Russian who arrived in Georgia via air, told CNN.