Russia may have finalized how it plans to launch its new war mobilization effort—by preventing men who can serve from leaving the country.
The independent Russian outlet Meduza reported that the Kremlin planned to ban men of fighting age from leaving the country in the event they needed to be drafted to deploy to Ukraine. The striking order came days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new “mobilization” effort designed to turn the tide against its losing war in the neighboring country.
The sweeping ban would likely go into effect on Wednesday, according to Meduza. It would follow the supposed referendums in the Russian-seized areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine pledging fealty to Russia, all of which are illegal by international law.
“We know what Vladimir Putin is doing,” said British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, according to the Mirror. “He is planning to fabricate the outcome of those referenda, he is planning to use that to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory, and he is planning to use it as a further pretext to escalate his aggression.”
If the border bans go into effect, they will contribute to speculation that Russia’s draft plans are much broader than initially stated. The country said it only planned to draft about 300,000 men with previous military experience for the war effort, though sources told Meduza shortly afterward that the number would exceed a million.
The initial call to action led thousands to try and escape the country, with tickets to neighboring countries Turkey and Azerbaijan—neither of which require visas for Russians—selling out within hours and thousands traveling to Finland by land. That didn’t stop Russian officials from handing out draft notices at bus and train stations, according to human-rights groups. It was those escape efforts that partially led to the new draft order, according to Meduza.