Between November 1 and January 21, more than 233,000 Russians arrived in Phuket, according to data from Phuket International Airport, making them the largest group of tourists to date.

Phuket has long been a favorite to escape Russia’s harsh winter, but a surge in property sales since President Vladimir Putin ordered mobilization in September suggests that many intend to stay longer than the typical holiday.

Russian arrivals have accounted for the third-largest group of tourists since Thailand’s borders were fully reopened and COVID-19 limitations were lifted in October, only behind Malaysian and Indian tourists.

Realtors in the Russian-dominated area of the island say the influx of wealthy tourists have driven prices to record levels as there is growing awareness that there is no end in sight to the war as it enters its second year.

Russia said it had drafted at least 200,000 citizens into Russia’s armed forces and all male citizens in Russia aged 18–27 are subject to conscription for one year of active-duty military service in the armed forces.

Last year, Russians bought nearly 40% of all condominiums sold to foreigners in Phuket, according to the Thai Real Estate Information Center, Al Jazeera reported.

“Most of my clients are 30-35 year olds… They are wealthy high-budget clients,” Phuket real estate agent Sofia Malygaevareal, originally from Russia, told Al Jazeera.

In order to stay on this idyllic island, Russian tourists need housing, schools, jobs, and visas – which takes time in Thailand, where long-term residency is difficult to obtain.

Since Thailand reopened its borders, the island of Koh Phangan also has become popular among Russian visitors trying to escape the war, also reported VOA.

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