Aleksey, 27, former contract soldier: “Everyone who will go to Ukraine now is already dead”
I started packing my things the day before the announcement of mobilization - I just leafed through the news and understood where everything was going. Left immediately on the 21st. I was going to buy a ticket in advance, but I didn’t know if they would issue it or not, so I immediately went to the airport to sort it out on the spot. Arriving at the airport, I managed to take the last ticket that was left, and it no longer mattered that it was a business class.
At the passport control, they didn’t ask so many questions: how do I feel about the “special operation”, how long do I plan to stay in Belarus, for what purpose am I going. I replied that I thought, and they quietly let me through. On the first day, no one was turned away. My friends, who also fell in a hurry, then told me that everything went without any problems.
Among my friends, the “special operation” is supported by a very small percentage. On the contrary, I have a positive attitude towards what is happening, because I think that the Donbass really needed to be defended - but not in such a way and not to such an extent that it was necessary to destroy the cities of Ukraine and allow civilians to die.
In addition, when a professional army is fighting at the front, this is one thing, but civilians have nothing to do in this hell. They will all die. Everyone who is now going to Ukraine and has never encountered military service is already dead, no matter how cruel it may sound.
I served under a contract, thanks to my acquaintances, I ended up in a special forces regiment, and on February 24 we were already being taken to exercises in Belarus, they said that they were sending us for a week, but then they were transferred to Ukraine. No matter how hard I try to keep my face, I can honestly say that this is scary. For me, the most shocking moment was the body of a child who did not have an arm, you look at it, and everything breaks inside you. It is impossible to forget: you dream of a bloody, armless child's corpse at night, and this is the future of those who are now being taken by the military registration and enlistment office.
There are a lot of losses, there are not enough personnel. Mobilization Putin is trying to solve this problem, but, unfortunately, this will only lead to another wave of deaths.
Andrey, ex-shooter, 30 years old: “I’d rather walk 19 kilometers without water and food than kill Ukrainians”
I am a shooter, I recently served, and when mobilization was announced, I immediately realized that I would be called up first. My wife got scared, friends started calling - everyone was thinking what to do and how. I was against this war from the very beginning: how else if you have relatives in the Donbass? I don’t want to kill, I just don’t understand how you can take the life of a person who does not threaten you with anything.
Of course, I had thoughts that it could come to mobilization, but I did not imagine that this would happen at one moment, so at first there was confusion - neither I nor my wife could decide to leave.
On the 23rd, a friend who works at the military enlistment office called me and said that I have a couple of days while they continue to update the bases. We started looking for tickets. I issued a power of attorney for my sister, arranged for her to look after the house, and for a long time I was looking for someone to attach a cat to - after all, you won’t go so easily with her, and we didn’t give her any international certificates and chips. While I was sorting it out, my wife constantly wrote that the tickets were disappearing.
A friend who works at the military enlistment office called me and said that I have a couple of days while they continue to update the databases
We decided to fly to the Mineralnye Vody, and from there to get to Georgia. But as soon as they rushed to look at the options, there were no more tickets. We continued to monitor, and suddenly we saw tickets. They quickly bought them, packed their things and flew away. I decided that if they didn’t let me through and caught me to be sent to the front, I’d rather write a refusal and sit down than go to kill.
We took a taxi from Mineralnye Vody to Vladikavkaz. It was very stressful because there were not enough cars. The taxi driver warned that they would slow down the traffic police and the issue of travel would have to be resolved, therefore, if we want to get to Vladikavkaz without unnecessary problems, we need to pay him from above, and he will “negotiate”. We agreed: there was no choice. At one of the checkpoints, they categorically refused to let us through: the driver said that we needed another three thousand, and he would “decide” everything, otherwise we would not go any further. We have paid.
We were very nervous that there would be no money left to live in Georgia for the first time, but there were no more problems with the posts, and we gradually reached the checkpoint with Ossetia. They got stuck in a traffic jam for about nine hours, absolutely everything was packed - there were a lot of cars on the side of the road, people went out onto the road, talked, just sat on the ground, because they were unbearably tired of being in a car.
At some point, when we were dropped off somewhere after leaving the village, we got out of the car and went on foot - with two suitcases and heavy backpacks. According to the maps, it was 19 kilometers to the checkpoint, but it’s better to go through them and collapse from fatigue than to kill Ukrainians.
The cork was absolutely lifeless. It was more like a hodgepodge of cars and people: a lane for trucks, for cars, for those with a bicycle (we also wanted to buy from the locals at first, but we were forced to pay 30 thousand), for pedestrians - there is absolutely nowhere to push through. Also, taxi drivers who plyed back and forth, taking pedestrians picked up on the road, constantly wedged into traffic jams and slowed down traffic, not allowing them to go further.
If suddenly they don’t let me through and they catch me to send me to the front, I’d rather write a refusal and sit down than go kill
While we were dragging by, no one moved even a hundred meters. Many people have already spent the night in the car for more than a day, they were running out of water and food. I remember a little girl got out of the car next to me - all disheveled, grimy, she began to cry that she wanted to go home and would no longer sit here.
Gradually, we got to the beginning of the walking line, stood for several hours, and passed the checkpoint only in the morning. They were very afraid of questions, but, as it turned out, in vain. Everything was pretty standard: who are you going to, do you know about mobilization, did you receive a summons. The border guard looked at something on his computer and said that you can go.
Then - the neutral zone, there is also a long line on foot, it is exhausting and cold to stand, because the wind constantly penetrates. Someone wedges into the crowd all the time - we stood like that for seven hours, and we ran out of water. It is good that the volunteers began to fill the bottles at the Georgian checkpoint and bring them to the queue.
There were a lot of abandoned bicycles on the side of the road - many, when they pass through the checkpoint, just leave them there. It was said that some border guards even collect them and then sell them.
The Georgian border guards did not ask anything, it was clear that they were very tired. I only heard how the one who stamped me said in an undertone: “There are so many of you, you all go and go.” After the border, we agreed with a taxi driver who was nearby, he agreed to take us to Tbilisi for three thousand per person.
It is very exhausting and causes a lot of stress, but at the same time it becomes calmer: you understand that, despite the fact that you had to give up everything and walk almost 20 kilometers with little or no water and rest, you will not become expendable in an unneeded and terrible war.
Vladimir, received a summons, 38 years old: “I don’t want to stain my hands with blood for the sake of the government’s incomprehensible goals”
I tried not to delve into the nuances of the conflict in Ukraine. I still don't understand what's really behind this offensive, but I don't want to die and kill. I don't want my hands to bleed for government purposes that I don't understand.
The news of the mobilization did not take me by surprise: I expected it to be possible, although I did not expect it to be so soon. Literally the next day after Putin's statement, they persistently knocked on our apartment, but we did not open it. And then near the door I found a summons. Therefore, I urgently decided to leave, hoping that if I did not sign anything, then it was not recorded anywhere.
I still don't understand what's really behind this offensive, but I don't want to die and kill
There was a problem with tickets. I wanted to fly to Uzbekistan or Chisinau, but there were either no tickets, or very expensive ones remained, and we had little money. There was no time left, and I decided to get to Samara in order to go to Kazakhstan from there. I took a ticket, which I managed to grab, packed my things and went to the airport.
I was very afraid that they would not let me through. At the control, they asked if I served, for what purpose the food and whether I received a summons. I lied that I didn't get it. Everything was trembling inside, I thought that now they would find out that the summons did come to me, but everything worked out - they put a stamp and let me through. Maybe it was because I was leaving the next day that they didn't have the lists yet, which they started talking about later.
In Samara, I took a taxi at the station. The driver asked for 10 thousand per car - 5 per person, but since I was alone, they agreed that he would take me for 4. I drove literally to the beginning of the traffic jam in front of the checkpoint. It was huge - about 20 kilometers, so many, as people on the road told me, stand for 2-3 days. Hearing about this, I did not try to sit down with someone, but just walked. It took about six hours, terribly exhausting. I had a backpack and a bag with me. The backpack was absolutely heavy: I tried to fit as many things as possible into it.
I walked to the checkpoint for six hours, and it is unusually exhausting
Closer to the checkpoint, a pedestrian queue began. There were about 200 people, moving very slowly, I stood for eight hours. Oddly enough, they didn’t ask me much questions, they just put a stamp. It seems to me that I was just lucky, because my friend, who left later, said that some men began to be wrapped up in his presence. On the border with Kazakhstan, everything went even faster. After it, I already took a taxi and drove to Uralsk.
Yulia, left with her boyfriend: “For 80 thousand you could bypass the line with a flasher”
The three of us left - me, my boyfriend and son. Despite the fact that the guy has category B, we understood that they could also call him, because we have already heard about such cases more than once in recent days. We thought about leaving since the end of February, but the announcement of mobilization finally knocked the ground out from under our feet, and we firmly decided to leave.
The choice was between Kazakhstan and Georgia, they chose Georgia. We quickly studied the route, the stories of other people and discussions in thematic groups in Telegram helped a lot. We drove from Krasnodar to Vladikavkaz and on to Tbilisi. We found the car pretty quickly, we had two hours to get ready. We took everything we needed, said goodbye to our relatives and drove off. Relatives supported our decision - they have a negative attitude towards the events of this year, like ourselves.
We left our favorite job, apartment and car. On September 24, we left Krasnodar, at about seven in the morning we were already at the checkpoint between Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia, and, having not reached Vladikavkaz for 40 kilometers, we got stuck in a traffic jam. After a while, we realized that the checkpoint was closed and cars were simply not produced, with the exception of the 15th region. We stayed for five hours.
After some time, I went to the beginning of the traffic jam and saw several people surrounding the inspector. People were indignant, it was especially hard for those with small children. Then the inspector took pity and ordered all cars with children to change lanes to the right and drive up to the checkpoint. I ran to the car, we moved to the right and drove closer, but another inspector was skeptical about this, said that only he decides everything here, asked to see the child and noted that at eight years old he does not look small to make exceptions. Be that as it may, no one was allowed through the checkpoint - we just stood in a separate lane.
Tired of waiting, we went on foot behind the checkpoint and there we found a taxi driver who offered to take us to the beginning of the traffic jam in Upper Lars, bypassing Vladikavkaz. We immediately agreed.
The car cost 20 thousand rubles. During the trip, the driver was called several times, and he named the price already at 25 and 30 thousand.
Initially, when we arrived, the traffic jam to the checkpoint looked acceptable: the cars stood in one row, everything was measured. Someone sat with open doors and listened to music, someone walked around and talked with neighbors on the road. We saw a grandmother playing with her grandchildren near the car, and there was no such disaster that everything turned into later.
We did not want to stay in the car for several days, because for some it stretched for three days, and therefore we decided to go on foot. The navigator showed 18 kilometers to Upper Lars. We had a large suitcase, three backpacks and a laptop bag with us. It was hard, but not as hard as I thought. I was more worried about my son, but even he steadfastly endured everything.
There are no shops on the route, so there is simply nowhere to stop and buy something. We had several bottles of water with us, cold cuts, bread, bagels, chocolate and apples - we didn’t want to take a lot because of the extra weight. We had a bite to eat once, but the water still ran out quickly. Saved only by the fact that next to the road there was a stream in which you could get a drink.
Then the traffic jam changed significantly - from a calm line of cars in one lane, at first it grew into two or three, and then more. A lot of cars, tired people, the level of aggression has increased markedly - someone honked, someone cursed. If at the beginning of the traffic jam we calmly walked with a suitcase, and cyclists or pedestrians were driving past, then at the end, even without a suitcase, it was far from possible to squeeze through everywhere.
At the beginning of the traffic jam, we were walking with a suitcase, cyclists were driving past or pedestrians were walking, at the end - even without a suitcase it was impossible to squeeze through
The tension has multiplied. People cooperated and tried to help the drivers, agreed among themselves, did not let cars go in the opposite direction.
I was looking for a car for about 20 minutes to get hooked to cross the border, while the guy and son were resting, but nothing came of it. Someone simply refused, someone was already beaten, someone called a cosmic amount. Taking advantage of the fact that people have nowhere to go, they are exhausted by the road and morally depressed, the locals raised prices to the ceiling.
My boyfriend found the car - he agreed with one Georgian who took us to him. We were taken through all checkpoints and to Tbilisi absolutely free of charge.
When we got into the car, 800 meters remained until the end of the traffic jam, but we overcame them for the next 13 hours. It was very exhausting.
While you are in a traffic jam, you can order delivery of food, water or gasoline at a cost several times higher than the market price. There is only one store on the entire route - directly in front of the checkpoint, but the queue there resembles a queue at the Louvre or the Tretyakov Gallery, and there is practically no assortment, and you can only pay in cash.
There are many who offer to drive to the checkpoint on a motorcycle, ATV or a car with flashing lights. The cost of this service starts from 30 thousand for a motorcycle and from 80 thousand for escort with a car. The closer the car is to the checkpoint, the sooner it will pass the border, so the price tag is higher.
Locals offer to drive to the beginning of the checkpoint with an escort for 80 thousand or more
On the entire route, there were traffic police who were fined for driving into the oncoming lane. But these same inspectors turned a blind eye when someone was driving with flashing lights with a caravan of cars following behind.
At the checkpoint itself, the sight was even more depressing. People sat on their suitcases, stood with their children, and there were cyclists separately. There were those on the side of the road who apparently couldn't find a car to move on.
We passed the Russian checkpoint in 30-40 minutes. At the passport check, everything was pretty fast, but the border guard asked a few questions to my boyfriend and tried to put pressure on me mentally.
After we got stuck in a traffic jam in the neutral zone due to the fact that the tunnel was clogged with trucks. When we arrived at the Georgian checkpoint, the gates were closed. There were not so many cars, but the line of people grew very quickly. We stayed for several hours. We passed the checkpoint in 10 minutes, the Georgians put stamps very quickly.