Russian citizens have reportedly started to flee the country ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s rumored announcement of martial law.
Earlier this week, Russia’s official censorship body issued guidance telling news networks to use only “trusted” sources under penalty of closure, which led to the shutdown of two independent news networks, including Dozhd TV – known in English as Rain TV.
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Tikhon Dzyadko, the overnight chief editor of Dozhd, wrote on Telegram on Mar. 2 that he was fleeing the country over fear for his life, saying that it is “obvious that the personal safety of some of us is now under threat.”
And Russian citizens have broadly started to panic as the Duma, Russia’s governing body, meets Thursday to lay out new legislation that may allow it to conscript anyone arrested for protesting the invasion – a number that stood at over 8000 as of Thursday evening, according to independent watchdog OVD-info.
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Kevin Rothrock of Bellingcat tweeted out the legislation has already been introduced to the Duma.
The crackdown on press has spooked even foreign reporters: Alec Luhn, who has reported on the ground in Russia for VICE wrote on social media that he was heading for the border along with so many people that plane tickets are “mostly sold out” and flights are “packed.”
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“Other passengers said they were afraid to be trapped in Russia, arrested or conscripted to fight a war they don’t support,” Luhn wrote. “Don’t know if they’ll be able to return.”
Julia Ioff of Puck News said a friend from Moscow was driving “all night” for the border since no plane tickets remained.
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“We’re trying to get there before the president’s address to the nation,” the friend said. Ioffe claimed the friend asked her to stop texting so they could scrub their phone for a search at the border.