A group of young men from St. Petersburg waiting outside a hotel in the Norwegian border town Kirkenes in September 2022. “I have nothing good to say about Putin,” says Nikitia (28). “That’s all there is to say about that.” Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Less than half who fled war mobilization have returned

Pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia estimates that 40% of the young men who ran abroad after Putin’s partial mobilization in September 2022 have returned. Other sources suggest the numbers are even less.
December 12, 2023


September 2022: A few thousand young men crossed into northernmost Norway and Finland in the days following Vladimir Putin’s call-up to the Army.

Those fleeing to Europe were people already holding a valid Schengen visa.

Hundreds of thousands of others started queuing up at Russia’s land borders with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Georgia. Planes to Istanbul were soon sold out. Non-Schengen European countries, like Armenia, Montenegro and Serbia, were also popular destinations for Russian citizens who didn’t want to end their days at the battlefields in eastern Ukraine. 

According to Rosstat, 668,400 people left Russia in 2022.

Statistics, however, are unreliable. Authorities are manipulating facts that could weaken the support for the war. Secondly, many of those who left have not officially changed residency. 

A maximum of 40% have returned, Izvestia reports on Tuesday. The newspaper adds with reference to online recruitment agency HeadHunter that the numbers could be as low as 26%. 

That means somewhere between 400,000 to 520,000 Russians have not returned today, more than a year after the partial mobilization was called. 


Last December, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitri Medvedev said those who fled their country should not be allowed to return

Moreover, the former president and prime minister suggested that “they must be completely cut off from their sources of income in our country, whatever they are.”

By mid-November, the U.K. Ministry of Defence estimated the number of killed Russian official soldiers to be 50,000 and as many as 240,000 wounded. Wager Group mercenaries likely suffered 40,000 wounded and 20,000 killed.

The Kremlin has not given any numbers of ca. Instead, laws imposing strict censorship on all discussion about Russia’s war against Ukraine are introduced.   




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