dDemand for private jet seats has skyrocketed in Moscow after Vladimir Putin ordered the first mobilization since World War II and wealthy Russians seek a way out of the country amid reports that authorities plan to close borders to men in the mobilization age.
Passengers would mainly be on their way to Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, where Russians enter visa-free. They pay between £20,000 and £25,000 for a seat on a private plane, while the price for hiring an eight-seater jet ranges from £80,000 to £140,000, which is many times more expensive than the regular fare.
“The situation is absolutely insane at the moment,” Yevgeny Bikov, the director of a brokerage jet company, told Your Charter. “We would get 50 requests a day; now there are about 5,000.”
The Kremlin’s decision to announce a partial mobilization has sparked a stampede among military-aged men to leave the country, triggering another, possibly unprecedented, brain drain. Traffic jams have built up for miles at Russia’s border crossings, while most commercial one-way tickets have sold out in the coming days.
Bikov said his company had begun chartering larger commercial aircraft in an effort to meet demand and lower prices. “But we just can’t find enough places for everyone,” he said, adding that the cheapest seat on a chartered commercial plane to Yerevan cost around 200,000 rubles (£3,000).
FlightWay, which offers private jet flights, said there had been an increase in requests for one-way flights to Armenia, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Dubai. “Demand has increased by five times,” said Eduard Simonov, the head of the company.
He said the availability of jets for hire had been severely curtailed after the EU and the UK introduced sanctions against Russia shortly after the conflict started, banning the leasing or insurance of aircraft for use in Russia.
“All European private jet companies have left the market. There is now more demand than supply and prices are skyrocketing compared to six months ago,” said Simonov.
It’s not just the very wealthy who want to use private jets, and some companies charter planes to fly out their male staff. According to the Russian business center Kommersant, a video game design company in Moscow has chartered an entire flight to get workers out of the country.
“We’re getting a completely new customer base, both companies and people who have never flown privately,” Simonov said. “There are many who had some extra cash to spare and are looking to get away.”
There are widespread fears in Russia that the Kremlin plans to close its borders this week.
Independent human rights groups have said that since Sunday, border guards at Russia’s only operational border crossing with Georgia have stopped some people from leaving, citing the mobilization law.
Asked about the possibility of border closures in a conversation with reporters on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I know nothing about this. No decisions have been made on this at this time.”
Russia could already lose 15% of its millionaires this year, according to a study, as the richest citizens move abroad. The mobilization is likely to deepen this outflow, potentially exacerbating the damage to the Russian economy.
“Most of our male younger customers left when Putin announced the mobilization last week,” said an employee of a luxury concierge service company in Moscow. “I used to call restaurants and bars on the Patriarch’s Ponds to reserve tables for them,” he said, referring to an upscale neighborhood in central Moscow. “Now all I have to do is scroll through flight aggregators to get the last plane seat for them to Yerevan.”
The exodus of Russia’s rich and powerful could fuel some of the anger seen in the poorer parts of the country, which seem disproportionately affected by conscription.
A recent joke involving Peskov’s son highlighted the belief of many that senior Russian officials and their children will not be called up to fight in Ukraine.
In the appeal, orchestrated by two activists with ties to imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Nikolai Peskov is heard saying that he will “obviously not” join the army when asked to report to the military commissariat at 10 a.m. the next day. .
“You have to understand that it’s not good for me to be there. I have to solve this on another level,” Nikolai Peskov is heard to say.
When asked about the phone call, his father said he was “informed” and claimed the full transcript had not been published.
The Guardian has seen evidence that the son of a prominent member of the State Duma, an official who regularly makes anti-Western and patriotic statements, left the country on Saturday on a flight to Istanbul. According to text messages reviewed by the Guardian, the Duma deputy escorted his son to an airport in Moscow to ensure he would be let out of the country.
“The Great Escape,” said a Snapchat story that sent the son on the plane to Turkey to a private group.