Ukraine war: Russians flee the country amid fears Vladimir Putin could impose martial law

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Police detain a demonstrator during an action against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia (AP)
Police detain a demonstrator during an action against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia (AP)

Russians are fleeing the country amid fears that Vladimir Putin could impose martial law and shut the border.

EU officials fear that the Russian President could introduce emergency legislation in a bid to further crack down on protest and dissent.

Some 7,000 Russian protesters have already been arrested after demonstrating against the invasion of Ukraine, which has reportedly caused the deaths of more than 2,000 civilians since last Friday.

Under the Russian constitution, martial law can be imposed when the country is under threat of attack. It would give Mr Putin extraordinary powers, including the ability to shut the country’s borders, intern all foreigners and control food supplies.

The Kremlin would also be given the power to further tighten censorship of the media, with military commanders given control of what can and cannot be printed and broadcasted. Authorities could also shut down the internet entirely, as well as all social media apps.

However, many Russians already face difficulties leaving the country as Russian aircraft are banned from flying over large swathes of European airspace. As such, many are attempting to cross the border by car or train.

One young Russian woman fleeing the country told the BBC she was horrified by her government’s actions and could not live in the country as long as it was occupying Ukrainian territory.

"People in Ukraine are our people - our family," she told the broadcaster. “We shouldn’t be killing them.”

Meanwhile, another woman who left the country for Istanbul feared a return to the repression of the Soviet Union.

She told the broadcaster: “I’m 30, I haven’t seen the worst... the repressions, the secret police… I had a very clear fear that if I’m not going to fly out right now, I will not be able to fly out ever.”

Another Russian man, who moved back to Moscow from western Europe around a year ago, told Reuters he had bought a flight to Istanbul for the weekend, adding that living in Moscow may no longer be possible.

“In my worst nightmares I couldn’t have dreamt of such hell when I was coming back a year ago,” said the 29-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous.

The price of plane tickets has soared in Russia since the country closed its airspace to the EU and other countries in response to sanctions.

Two popular options for Russians fleeing Mr Putin’s regime are Georgia and Armenia as they do not require a visa to live and work.

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