Russian arrivals line up at a registration center in Almaty, Kazakhstan. (Rebecca Wright/CNN)

Vadim says he fell into depression last month after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military plan to send hundreds of thousands of conscripts to fight in Ukraine.

“I was silent,” said the 28-year-old engineer, explaining that he had simply stopped talking while he was working. “I was angry and scared.”

When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Vadim says he took to the streets of Moscow to protest – but Putin’s September 21 order to recruit at least 300,000 men to fight looked like to a point of no return.

“We don’t want this war,” Vadim said. “We cannot change something in our country, although we have tried.”

He decided he only had one option left. Several days after Putin’s draft order, he bade a tearful farewell to his grandmother and left his Moscow home – potentially forever.

Vadim and his friend Alexei traveled as fast as they could to the border between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where they waited in line for three days to cross.

“We fled Russia because we want to live,” says Alexei. “We are afraid of being sent to Ukraine.”

The two men asked not to be identified, in order to protect their relatives who remained in Russia.

Last week in Almaty, the commercial capital of Kazakhstan, they lined up with more than 150 other newly arrived Russians outside a government registration center – part of an exodus of dodgers.

Voting with your feet: More than 200,000 Russians flocked to Kazakhstan after Putin’s announcement of conscription, according to the Kazakh government.

And it’s not hard to spot the new Russian arrivals at Almaty’s main train station. Every hour, it seems, young Slavic men exit the train with backpacks, looking slightly dazed as they check their phones for directions.

They come from cities across Russia: Yaroslavl, Togliati, St. Petersburg, Kazan. When asked why they left, they all answer the same thing: mobilization.

“It’s not something I want to be involved in,” says Sergei, a 30-year-old computer programmer. He sat on a bench outside the station with his wife, Irina. The couple, holding backpacks and rolled up sleeping mats, said they hoped to visit Turkey and hopefully apply for Schengen visas for Europe.

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Russian dissenters flock to Kazakhstan to escape Putin's war |  CNN

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