Russia begins massive war call-up, flights sell out

STORY: More than 1,000 people have been arrested at protests across Russia and one-way flights out of the country have sold out, in a wave of panic triggered by this moment.

A speech made by President Putin on Wednesday calling up 300,000 conscripts to fight in Ukraine - with immediate effect - signifying a major escalation in the conflict, and Russia's first wartime mobilization since World War Two.

Moments after Putin’s speech, citizens were already receiving orders to enlist, according to a human rights lawyer said.

In St Petersburg, recruitment officers handed packs of conscription papers to homeowners' associations.

Here and in 37 other Russian cities demonstrations erupted.

Protestors chanting ‘no to war’ as police carried out arrests.

Russia’s Defence Minister said the army was calling up people with experience of service and military "specialists."

But there was little clarity as to who these would be.

Medical skills appeared to be in demand as medics across Moscow received summons ‘en masse’ to go and receive mobilization orders.

On the Moscow metro, men could be seen studying call-up papers.

On the streets, some residents were concerned.

One told Reuters "You always feel worried at moments like these. Because you have a wife and kids and you think about it.’"

Another – in the city of Kursk said "They're not letting people out of Kursk. There are police cordons everywhere, checking each car. If the man is from Kursk, they turn you back."

Fears of not being allowed to leave sent one-way flights out of Russia skyrocketing in price, selling out soon after Putin's announcement.

Google Trends data showed a spike in searches for Aviasales, Russia's most popular flight-booking site.

On Thursday morning dozens of Russians from Moscow touched down Serbia’s capital, Belgrade.

One traveller – Pavel, who had booked his flight before the announcement – said he would be returning to Russia.

"As our defense minister said, one percent of the population would be sufficient to fulfil the goal of the mobilization."

The Kremlin declined to comment on whether the borders would be closed to those subject to the mobilization order, and asked people to be patient as the law is clarified.