Tragic scenes are beginning to emerge from Russia as members of the public are conscripted into the Kremlin's war effort in Ukraine.
Videos showing crying family members saying goodbye to their loves ones as they leave to join the military effort have begun circulating widely on social media.
Washington Post journalist Mary Ilyushina, who covers Russia, shared a clip of crying mothers farewelling their sons after Vladimir Putin announced the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists as he tries to formally annex large parts of eastern Ukraine.
"Similar scenes unfolded in hundreds of Russians cities and towns today," she wrote on Twitter.
"Some Moscow reservists I spoke to say they are also leaving for training tonight, likely will be on the frontlines in [about] 2-3 weeks."
Similar videos have been circulating on Russian telegram channels and being shared on western social media platforms as the world watches on in horror.
"F***ing surreal," one Twitter user responded. "Lambs to the slaughter," another said.
Footage reportedly taken at an airport in Khurba, in Russia'a Far East Khabarovsk region, shows a long line of fresh conscripts standing on the tarmac before boarding an aircraft.
The sobering video was shared by Jason Corcoran, an Irish journalist and analyst with a long history of covering Russia.
"This morning the first servicemen were put on buses destined for the meat grinder," he wrote in a separate tweet.
While many have willingly complied with the Kremlin's order to join the fight, others have tried to flee the country.
Traffic at frontier crossings with Finland and Georgia surged, Reuters reported, while prices for flights from Moscow have also rocketed in price.
Fares for tickets out of Moscow soared above US$5,000 for a one-way journey to the nearest foreign locations, with most tickets sold out completely for the coming days.
"Kremlin says reports about exodus of people from Russia are exaggerated but what is telling is that the most booming Telegram channel in the country right now is Border Control," Mary Ilyushina reported.
Users of the channel provide details and updates on how men are able to cross checkpoints in the country. The group's members spiked from a couple thousand to more than 200,000.
Russians defy Putin: 'War is horrible'
"War is horrible," Sergei, a Russian who declined to give his surname, told Reuters as he arrived in Belgrade, the Serbian capital.
"It's okay to be afraid of war and of death and such things."
One Russian man who gave his name as Alex told Reuters in Istanbul that he had left Russia partly due to the mobilisation.
"The partial mobilisation is one of the reasons why I am here," he said. "A very poor step it seems to be, and it can lead to lots of problems to lots of Russians."
He said he felt that not many Russians would want to be sent to fight.
Another Russian, who gave his name only as Vasily, arrived in Istanbul with his wife, teenage daughter and six suitcases.
"The mobilisation was inevitable because there was a shortage of human resources. I am not worried because I’m already 59 years old and my son lives abroad," he said.
A truck driver who crossed the Russian-Kazakh border on Thursday (local time) near the Kazakh city of Oral told Reuters he saw unusually heavy traffic from the Russian side. He asked not to be identified, fearing that might complicate his future travel.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that reports of an exodus of draft-age men were exaggerated. Asked about reports that men detained at anti-war protests were being given draft papers, Peskov said it was not against the law.
Some 10,000 volunteers have turned up to enlist for Russia's military campaign in Ukraine without waiting for call-up papers, according to Russian news agencies.
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