Latvia says it won’t offer refuge to Russians fleeing mobilisation; Flights out of Russia sell out

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European Union member Latvia, which borders Russia, will not offer refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilisation of troops, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said in a tweet on Wednesday, citing security concerns.

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two and warned that Moscow would defend itself with the might of all its vast arsenal if faced with a nuclear threat from the West.

Flights out of Russia sell out

Meanwhile, one-way flights out of Russia were selling out fast on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin ordered the immediate call-up of 300,000 reservists.

Putin’s announcement, made in an early-morning television address, raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up would be limited to those with experience as professional soldiers, and that students and those who had only served as conscripts would not be called up.

Nevertheless, Google Trends data showed a spike in searches for Aviasales, which is Russia’s most popular website for purchasing flights.

Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia, both destinations that allow Russians to enter without a visa, were sold out on Wednesday, according to Aviasales data.

Some routes with stopovers, including those from Moscow to Tbilisi, were also unavailable, while the cheapest flights from the capital to Dubai were costing more than 300,000 roubles ($5,000) – about five times the average monthly wage.

In Other Developments:

DIPLOMACY/POLITICS

* “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a bluff,” Putin said in a televised address to the nation.

* Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step that will prove extremely unpopular and underscores that the war is not going according to Moscow’s plan, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said.

* Pro-Russian figures on Tuesday announced referendums for Sept. 23-27 in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory, or an area about the size of Hungary.

* Speaking shortly after Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would draft some 300,000 additional personnel out of some 25 million potential fighters at Moscow’s disposal.

* In Moscow’s first update on casualty numbers in almost six months, Shoigu also said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the conflict. Shoigu dismissed assertions by Kyiv and the West that Russia has suffered heavy losses, and said 90% of wounded Russian soldiers had returned to the frontline.

* U.S. President Joe Biden will try to rally the world against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, saying Moscow’s war against its neighbor violates the tenets of the U.N. charter.

ECONOMY/MARKETS

* Germany nationalised gas importer Uniper on Wednesday and Britain capped the wholesale cost of electricity and gas for businesses, in Europe’s latest moves to keep the lights on and heaters running this winter as the war in Ukraine escalates.

* Stocks fell, while safe havens such as government bonds and the dollar rose, as already anxious investors fled risk assets after Putin ordered a partial mobilisation and accused the West of “nuclear blackmail”.

* The rouble recovered from two months lows and Russian stocks pared losses on Wednesday after earlier plunges triggered by President Vladimir Putin’s move to order Russia’s first military mobilisation since World War Two.

QUOTES

* “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them,” Putin said in the televised address.

* “Sham referenda and mobilization are signs of weakness, of Russian failure,” Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said on Twitter.

A billboard depicting a soldier with the slogan ‘Serving Russia is a real job’ stands in St. Petersburg, Russia. EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV

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