Speed Reads

Dodging the Draft

More Russian men have now fled Putin's draft than fought in Ukraine, U.K. military intelligence says

In the seven days since Russian President Vladimir Putin "announced the 'partial mobilization' there has been a considerable exodus of Russians seeking to evade call-up," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in its early Thursday intelligence assessment. The exact number of fleeing Russians is "unclear," but "it likely exceeds the size of the total invasion force Russia fielded in February 2022."

Putin's initial invasion force included about 130,000 troops. More than 197,000 Russians have already fled through land borders to Georgia, Finland, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia since Sept. 21, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, and CNN says 10,000 are escaping into Georgia at one border crossing each day. 

Those trying to leave Russia tend to be "better off and well educated," Britain's Defense Ministry said, "and the acceleration of 'brain drain' is likely to become increasingly significant" for Russia.

"Mobilization is another serious hit on the Russian economy" just as "oil and gas revenues are beginning to dry up" amid plunging energy prices, Maxim Mironov, a finance professor at Madrid's IE Business School, tells The Wall Street Journal. And the Russians escaping "are mainly highly skilled, educated workers. So this mobilization is going to have a severe economic effect not just for the next year but for decades."

Training, equipping, and paying 300,000 conscripts also requires a lot of money, the Journal adds. And "the Kremlin has dispatched still more forces" to Russia's borders, where FSB agents confront and in some cases stop "young Russian men trying to join an exodus out of the country," The New York Times reports. "While many Russians headed for the borders, others took to the streets," and "still others have attempted sabotage" at military recruitment centers.

Putin's "partial mobilization" was supposed to apply "only to those with military experience, but across Russia — and especially in remote areas and among ethnic minority groups — there were numerous reports of people with no experience being swept up," the Times reports. In fact, the Institute for the Study of War adds, "Russian military recruitment officials are openly contradicting the Kremlin's publicly stated guidelines for mobilization to meet quota requirements."

And Russian authorities "continue to send newly mobilized and undertrained recruits to directly reinforce severely degraded remnants of various units" in Ukraine, ISW reports. Ukraine's military said Wednesday night that Russia's fresh conscripts are arriving, clearly untrained, on the front lines in Donetsk.