Monday, March 27

Escape from Russia via Istanbul

Maria -not his real name- says that sometimes he has a little more than hope in which everything ends quickly, but others do not, and that changes emotional state several times a day. But at the very least, now that you have reached Europeis somewhat calmer.

Russian citizen, left Moscow a few days ago in the face of the chaos created by the invasion of Ukraine. “It was a bit stressful because the online applications to buy the tickets did not work well and the flights became more expensive. The plane was full and many people on it also seemed to be leaving Moscow for a while,” explains Maria from Europe.

Like her, in recent days, many Russians are trying leave your country. It is not easy: with the EU having closed its airspace and connections with Russia, the remaining options are few. The most viable is through istanbulthe last big airport European with connection to Slavic country.

“On the plane [a Estambul] I met a man who the day before was flying from Moscow to Germany, but just while it was in the air Europe closed its airspace. He told me that his flight gave Turn around and landed back in Moscow. As we flew he was quite nervous. He told me that I wouldn’t be calm until we got to Istanbul,” says Maria, who was somewhat more relaxed on the journey because her husband is European and she has a permanent residence card from the schengen area.

Routes and prices

In recent days, last-minute flights from Moscow to Istanbul have been almost tripled its priceuntil the 1,000 euros, if they haven’t sold out before. A month ago, before it all started, you could get a ticket for about 100 euros or even less if purchased a few weeks in advance.

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But it is not only the route to Istanbul, although this is the busiest. Those who escape, also go to Everan (Armenia), Baku (Azerbaijan) and Tbilisi (Georgia). The flight to Yerevan from the Russian capital is already worth 1,300 euros. To Tbilisi, 2,000 euros. All this, of course, if there are still seats left. They are also filling flights to Belgrade, Serbiaas well as the trains that go from St. Petersburg to Helsinki.

“At the moment I don’t know many people who are also trying to leave. In Moscow the situation is not yet hopeless. Sometimes it was strange to think that the city is the capital of a country at war. But I don’t know… Everything changes so fast so many times a day that it’s impossible for me to know what will happen tomorrow,” laments Maria.

With each passing day

Today, however, is getting darker. They have closed almost all independent Russian media that remained -of the very few that, at the moment, are still standing is Novaya Gazeta, whose director won the Nobel Prize last year. Almost 10,000 people have been arrested for demonstrating against the war and the Duma, the Russian Parliament, has approved this Friday a new law that will punish with a maximum of 15 years in jail to everyone who spreads “fake news about the Russian Army.

And then there’s the galloping economic crisis which is already beginning to be felt in Russia due to the economic sanctions imposed by the West, in addition to the forced marches of foreign companies from the country.

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Although this crisis has not yet fully manifested itself. “At the moment it is rather the panic effect than reality. Something like this happened at the beginning of the pandemic, when people bought toilet paper like crazy. It’s the feeling that social networks give”, explains a young Muscovite who prefers to remain anonymous.

Martial law

“There is a lot old people who supports the government and who only sees the official TV. They are very calm. I for example, I don’t talk about it with my family. They are among those who have the public channel out loud 24 hours a day,” explains this young woman.

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Despite this, every day there are more people trying to leave Russia, and even more so with the increasingly insistent rumors – denied by the Kremlin – that the government could at any time declare the martial lawwhich would mean closure of borders and the mandatory affiliation to the Army of every man of fighting age.

In the meantime, however, tickets to go out are running out, the queues to buy flights at the offices of the few airlines that still operate are increasing and the hotels in istanbul they get filled. “When we arrived at Istanbul airport I heard two couples who were talking to each other while they were withdrawing money from an ATM -explains María-. They also came from Moscow and commented that they all work in the technology sector. They talked about their future plans. A couple even said that maybe they would try to stay in Europe“.

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