Millions of refugees fled Ukraine after the Russian attack on February 24. Russia is also experiencing a wave of emigration, especially in the IT sector. According to various estimates cited by the Polish Press Agency, between 150,000 and 300,000 people left Russia after the invasion of Ukraine began. Most of them went to the countries of the former USSR. The largest group that has left the country are highly qualified workers.
Aimed at Russia sanctions do not prevent residents of this country from traveling on terms such as those that were in force before the war, as long as the person is not covered by the restrictions, so in many countries European Union Russians can still apply for visas. Direct flights from Russia to the EU or Of the United Statesbut it does not mean that the Russians cannot fly with a change, e.g. in Turkey.
In reality, however, it is not Western Europe or the USA that has become the main destination for departures from Russia so far.
According to data from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), in the first quarter of this year. There has been a multiple increase in departures of Russians to the countries of the former USSR, for entry to which Russians do not need a visa, for example a fivefold increase in departures to Georgia and Tajikistan, three times to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, and twice to Kazakhstan. Among the EU countries, most Russians left for Estonia and Latvia.
In the first quarter of this year. 3.9 million people left Russia for tourism, work, education, etc., which is over 1.2 million more than in the same period a year earlier. It is not known how many of them returned at that time, and according to the FSB, none of them declared that they were leaving Russia to move out permanently.
According to the organization helping Russian emigrants, OK Russians, over 300,000 people left Russia only in the first month of the invasion.
Washington Post: Largest Emigration since 1917
However, the researcher Julia Florinskaya from the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, speaking at the beginning of May for the Russian independent portal Meduza, believes that OK Russians’ estimates are overstated and that around 150,000 people could have left. people. She emphasizes that the FSB data also does not show the real picture of migration, as it is significantly lower than in the years before the coronavirus pandemic.
The Moscow Times website estimates that thousands of Russians who initially left, fearing that Putin would close the borders, have already returned to the country. But at least some may be leaving again as a new wave of emigration is anticipated in the weeks and months to come. Experts cited by the Washington Post call the current emigration the fastest or largest since the October Revolution of 1917, when millions fled the rise of the Soviet Union.
According to a study by OK Russians on a sample of 2,000 people, the most popular destinations were Georgia, Turkey and Armenia – one third of the emigrants reached them. Two-thirds of those who left were IT specialists and managers.
Every tenth IT specialist left the country
The Russian Association of Electronic Communications informed the State Duma that from 50,000 up to 70 thousand IT specialists left the country by the end of April, predicting that in May this number would increase to 100,000, which is a total of around 10 percent. workforce in this sector. The departure of so many professionals threatens to weaken many sectors of the Russian economy, from state media to the aviation and space industry, which is already feeling the effects of Western sanctions, stresses “WP”.
To stem this tide, the Russian government passed an unprecedented incentive package offering IT companies tax breaks and relaxing regulations. IT specialists are promised subsidized housing, wage increases and no income tax for the next three years, and exemption from military service.
– I thought they would send me on war on Ukraine Maxim Nemkewicz, a product manager at a large Russian IT company who fled to Turkey in March after being asked by a university where he was a consultant, told US daily newspaper to fill out a form with “skills” he can offer the military.
“I thought that Putin would start blocking IT specialists leaving Russia, because so many of us are leaving and they need us,” explains Nemkewicz.
In his opinion, Russian IT workers are now “everywhere” in Istanbul, and temporary offices, restaurants and sidewalks are “filled with Russian-speaking people.”
In the OK Russians study, the average age of people leaving is 32, 80% of them have higher education, and 63 percent. went away with a partner. The vast majority describe their financial situation before leaving as good or very good, but also the majority depend on the source of their income in Russia and have small savings that will suffice for a few months of living abroad in case of losing their job.
Some emigrants struggle with financial problems, incl. access to savings and salaries on accounts in Russia, non-working payment cards, finding a new job, high living costs in a new place due to the low ruble exchange rate.
Restrictions for Russians in the EU
Despite the restrictions resulting from EU sanctions imposed on March 9, citizens of Russia and Belarus can open accounts in EU countries, although additional verification (including checking if they are on the restriction list) and limitations in total deposits may await them.
About 60 percent. people believe that she has left Russia for a long time or forever. In the next three months, 43 percent. of respondents intend to stay in the current country, 18 percent. plans to move to another country (mostly Western), 35 percent. does not know, and 3 percent. wants to return to Russia, according to a survey by OK Russians.
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on February 24, 2022, there was also an increase in the number of Russians applying for asylum in the European Union, the European Union Agency for Asylum (AUEA) reported. As early as March, the Russians submitted almost 1,400 asylum applications, more than twice as many as in February and the highest number since August 2018. In March, the recognition rate for Russian applications was 27 percent. and was the highest in several years.
According to research commissioned by the independent portal Takiye Diela, between four and five million people left Russia in the last twenty years, including around two million in 2018-2019.
Main photo source: EPA / YURI KOCHETKOV