The men, mostly reservists under 35 who served in the army and have junior military ranks, were handed written notices in their offices or at their homes. In some cases, they had their identity documents checked on the street and were told to appear for a health check. Others got orders by telephone.
Anxious relatives, meanwhile, began searching for ways to flee the country or otherwise avoid their loved ones being called for service. Flights to the few cities abroad still offering direct service to Russia — most destinations have been cut off by sanctions — were suddenly sold out.
Google search trends showed a spike in queries like “how to leave Russia” and even “how to break an arm at home,” raising speculation some Russians were thinking of resorting to self-harm to avoid the war.
“They’ve been chasing me since February, trying to offer me a contract,” one Moscow resident, who served in the army and has prior combat experience, said in an interview.