Panicked Russian conscripts have been told that “the games are over” and they will be deployed to fight in Ukraine within three weeks.
Footage shared online appeared to show one man at a mustering station in Russia in tears as Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation got under way.
“Why the f--- are you screaming like women,” a voice could be heard barking over an outpouring of fear and resentment from draftees in the room. “You are all military men now,” said another.
Men in the mustering station were told they faced two weeks of training before being sent to fight in Ukraine.
The initial days of Russia’s first mobilisation since the Second World War reportedly produced similar scenes of distress, and even a mass exodus of military-aged men from the country.
Since Putin, Russia’s president, and Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, announced that some 300,000 men would be drafted to bolster battle-stricken forces in Ukraine, summons have been delivered, with schoolteachers forced to hand out draft notices.
Men were given an hour to pack their belongingsand appear at muster stations across the country, but mainly in Russia’s poorest and most deprived provinces.
Officials in Buryatia, one of the country’s poorest regions, were reported to have handed out thousands of draft notices since Putin’s announcement.
A video emerged of people clashing with a female official in Dagestan, a Muslim republic in the Caucasus ruled by Moscow, arguing in favour of the conscription.
“You’re fighting for your children’s future,” the official shouted to a crowd outside a municipal building. A man in the crowd responded: “We don’t have a present, what kind of future are you talking about?”
Another social media video from Yakutia, north-east Siberia, showed dozens of men bidding farewell to their loved ones before being bussed to recruitment centres.
Elsewhere, border crossing points out of Russia became clogged up by men of fighting age attempting to flee the country. There was reportedly a 24-mile queue into neighbouring Georgia as thousands attempted to escape across the frontier.
Traffic at the crossing was so bad that men resorted to renting scooters in desperation because the border cannot be crossed on foot. Entrepreneurial Russians started advertising taxi services to ferry would-be deserters from southern Russian cities to cross the mountainous Caucasian border.
Flights to other countries had already sold out within hours of Putin’s mobilisation announcement.
Some Russians had been lucky enough to be in Georgia when the decree calling up reservists to fight in Ukraine was passed by the Russian president.
Masha and Susanna were in Tbilisi on holiday when the order came. Masha, a pharmacist, has decided that she is going to stay, terrified of being drafted if she returns home.
A female friend with similar qualifications has already received a letter from the military commissariat in Russia. Another acquaintance was turned away at the Georgian side of the border on Wednesday.
Channels have sprung up on the Telegram social media app, popular in Russia and Ukraine, with tens of thousands of people seeking advice on how to make the crossing.
“Georgia did not let me in, they gave me a paper with a refusal. Is it possible to try again tomorrow?” one desperate young man asked a group with more than 60,000 members.