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Arctic cycling and sailing to South Korea: the Russians fleeing conscription

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Tens of thousands have fled Russia after mobilisation, with many taking unorthodox routes

Two Russians made headlines around the world last week when they crossed the Bering Strait by boat, landing on a remote Alaska island to avoid conscription to fight in Ukraine.

Their dramatic journey was just the latest in a string of unorthodox routes used by tens of thousands of fleeing Russians desperate to avoid participating in Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

A one-way ticket to Tehran

Tickets from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan, Tashkent and Baku, the capitals or major cities of countries that allow visa-free entry for Russians, were quickly sold out hours after Putin announced the first mobilisation since the second world war.

So Alexei, 25, decided to buy a one-way ticket from Moscow to Tehran, Iran, a country that has found itself in the midst of historic anti-government protests.

“When I told my family about Tehran they were very worried,” Alexei said. “They were asking if Iran was really safer than staying in Russia.”

After spending the afternoon in Iran, Alexei boarded a plane to Dubai where he has been living since.

Sailing to South Korea

On 27 September, eight Russian yachtsmen departed from the far eastern city of Vladivostok and sailed to South Korea, the BBC Russian service reported. The men reportedly had planned the trip for later this year but decided to leave immediately after mobilisation was announced.

The journey through the Sea of Japan took about five days, as the boat had to circumvent North Korean territorial waters.

Elsewhere in the country, private boating companies also offered voyages from southern Black Sea ports to Turkey. A cabin on a one-way catamaran trip from the Russian-occupied Crimean city of Yalta to Sinop, Turkey was priced at £1,400.

Arctic cycle


Lying 125 miles (200km) north of the Arctic Circle, Murmansk attracts visitors each winter hoping to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. For Ilya, 27, the city was the starting point of a 150-mile bicycle escape journey to the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes.

The day after Putin announced the mobilisation, Ilya bought a secondhand bike from a friend in Moscow and boarded a sleeper train north to Murmansk, before starting his cycling trip.

“Luckily I was training for a triathlon just before the war started. I didn’t think it would come in as handy,” Ilya said.

In Kirkenes, usually a small, sleepy Norwegian town, hotels were sold out, Ilya said, as dozens of Russians waited near the town’s small airport to board a plane to the capital, Oslo.

Source : The Guardian