Russians flee Putin’s regime after Ukraine war in second wave of emigration

A ‘second wave’ of Russians is now officially moving to countries spanning Europe, the Middle East and Asia after spending time organizing their jobs.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | beautiful pictures

For months now, Vladimir has been preparing the paperwork and arranging his affairs to move to France.

The visa process that used to be relatively easy is now complicated, but the 37-year-old is confident it will be worth it to get his family and staff out of Russia.

“On one hand, it’s comfortable living in the country where you were born. But on the other hand, it’s the safety of your family,” Vladimir told CNBC via video call from his office in Moscow.

For Vladimir, the decision to leave the country he calls home for life “wasn’t made in a day”. Under President Vladimir Putin, he has watched what he calls “the erosion of politics and freedom” in Russia for years. But the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine was the last straw.

“I think, in a year or two, things will be just as bad,” he said of his country.

The Russian Embassy in London and the Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Russia’s ‘second wave of migration’

Once the process starts and people start figuring out how to do things… that’s going to drive a lot of people away.

Jeanne Batalova

Senior policy analyst, Migration Policy Institute

A “first wave” of artists, journalists and others openly opposed to Putin’s regime felt they had to leave the country immediately or risk political repression for violating electricity. Kremlin. suppress public dissent.

“Many people receive notifications saying they are traitors,” noting the backlash from some Russians – even even from neighboring countries.

But as the war progressed, more and more Russians decided to pack up and leave.

“The way migration works is that once the flow starts and people start figuring out how to do things – apply for an apartment, apply for asylum, find a job or start a business – that will boost many people leave. It becomes a cyclical act of complacency,” said Batalova.

An exodus in the hundreds of thousands

There is no specific data on the number of Russians who have left the country since the beginning of the war. However, a Russian economist gives the total as 200,000 as of mid-March.

According to Batalova, this number is likely to be much higher today as tens of thousands of Russians have moved to Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Israel, the Baltic states and beyond.

“If you look at the different destinations people went to, these numbers are true,” she said. And that number doesn’t even include Russia’s large expatriate community, many of them in Southeast Asia, who chose not to return home after the invasion. Batalova puts that number at around 100,000.

There is no specific data on the number of people who left Russia after the war, although economists put an estimate of 200,000 to 300,000 by mid-March.

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In the tech sector alone, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 professionals left in the first month of the war, with the next 70,000 to 100,000 expected soon after, according to a report. Russian IT Industry Trade Corporation.

Some startup founders like Vladimir, who runs software services for restaurants, have decided to move their businesses and employees abroad, choosing countries with access to capital like France, UK, Spain and Cyprus. Vladimir is moving his wife and school-age child, as well as the group of four and their family, to Paris.

They tracked many mobile independent Russian tech workers who flocked to low-visa countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey.

You are seeing a major brain drain. The disruption for talented people is huge.

Then there’s a third group of tech workers at Russia’s larger IT companies, who are leaving more of an obligation than a choice.

Mikhail Mizhinsky, founder of Relocode, a company that helps tech businesses relocate, says these people face a particularly difficult situation.

Many people have received ultimatums from overseas customers who is stopping doing business with Russia. For them, it’s a mix of low costs in Bulgaria, Russian influence in Serbia and tax benefits in Armenia, according to Mizhinsky.

“Most of them don’t necessarily want to leave Russia, their home country,” he said. “On the other hand, however, they have customers purchasing their outsourced IT products and services who have asked them to leave. Many have received letters from customers saying they would terminate their contracts if they didn’t. leave Russia.”

The well-educated and the rich

The tech sector is one of a number of professional services industries that has seen an exodus of talent from Russia’s larger cities, as people reject war and business conditions worsen. .

Scott Antel, an international hotel and franchise lawyer who has spent nearly two decades working in Moscow, has so far helped five friends move from Russia to Dubai, in some cases buying real estate for them. promote mobility.

“You’re seeing a massive brain drain,” Antel said. “The disruption to talented people is huge and there will be more to come.”

Some 15,000 millionaires are expected to leave Russia this year, adding to the number of emigrants amid President Putin’s war.

Oleg Nikishin | News about Getty images

Cautiousness among host countries

The second exodus is taking place amid reports that some previous Russian emigrants have came back homebecause of family and business relationships, as well as difficulties caused by travel restrictions and banking sanctions.

However, Batalova said she expected such earnings to be short-lived.

“My bet is that the exodus from Russia will continue, and when people come back, they will sell properties, houses and then leave again,” she said.

But questions remain about the reception some Russian emigrants may receive in their host countries, she said.

They don’t want Russia to come later and try to protect Russians in host countries like they did with the diaspora in Ukraine.

Jeanna Batalova

Senior policy analyst, Migration Policy Institute

“In this conflict, Russia is seen as the aggressor and that attitude is passed on to the migrants. Even if they [Russian migrants] are against the system, public sentiment can be transferred to newcomers,” said Batalova.

Indeed, there are some host countries that fear that some of the host countries may find themselves targets for a future Russian invasion. Moscow maintains that part of the reason for its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine is the “liberation” of Donbas, an area in eastern Ukraine inhabited by a large number of people. Russian people.

According to Batalova, countries such as Georgia, Armenia and the Baltic states – all of which have suffered Russian aggression in the past and have current concerns about their national security – are likely to be particularly vulnerable. particular worry.

“They don’t want Russia to come in later and try to protect Russians in their host countries the way they did with the diaspora in Ukraine,” she noted.

However, Vladimir remained undaunted. He hopes for a fresh start in his family’s search for a new home outside of Russia.

“On the negative side, I’m sure it’s not 100% true for everyone. In any country, and with any passport, people can understand each other,” he said.

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