‘My Future Is Taken From Me’: Russians Flee to Escape Consequences of Moscow War | Russia
Alexei Trubetskoy knew he had to go out as soon as he woke up and looked at his phone the morning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I got up, watched the news in disbelief and realized I had to leave as soon as possible,” he said. Trubetskoy, who runs an English language school in Moscow, bought a ticket to Sri Lanka the same day.
“It was clear to me that the horrific invasion will change Russia forever.”
A growing number of Russians have decided to leave their country following Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, fearing the economic and political consequences of this decision.
“I hope to return to the country I love, but it is absolutely unclear what will happen next. My future is taken away from me, the country will not be the same,” Trubetskoy said.
Russia has already seen a major crackdown on those who oppose the invasion.
More than 7,500 people have so far been arrested in anti-war protests across the country, according to independent monitoring site OVD-Info. A number of independent media in the country have also been forced to close.
But those leaving also fear the economic uncertainties the country now faces: the Russian ruble and financial markets crashed this week after the West implemented crippling sanctions, and Moscow has also seen a mass exodus of Western companies, including Ikea, Apple and Nike.
Google Analytics show that the word “emigration” has seen a surge in searches over the past week as countless Telegram channels have been created in which worried Russians discuss ways to leave the country.
Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, said the country is expected to see an exodus of its “quality workforce” who will feel there is “no future ” for them in Russia.
“This exodus will mean the degradation of the nation. The country does not have a very large pool of talented people. Without them, Russia cannot develop,” Kolesnikov said.
The exodus has been fueled by rumors that authorities could declare martial law as early as Friday, when the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, is due to hold an unscheduled meeting.
Such a move would be unprecedented in modern Russian history and could involve a massive mobilization of the male population as well as border closures, according to an official document outlining the law.
“I got my family together after a friend at the ‘top’ called me about this martial law thing. We booked the first available plane on Tuesday and flew to a random country I had never been to before,” said Anton, a senior executive at a major Russian oil and gas company. “I have no intention of fighting in this war which was not my decision at the start.”
Tatyana Stanovaya, prominent Russian political analyst and founder of R. Politik, Wednesday evening tweeted that the introduction of martial law could be a “logical scenario”.
“The proclamation of martial law will allow the authorities to introduce military censorship, increase the secrecy of state activities and the actions of local bodies.”
The last time the Federation Council convened an unscheduled meeting was on February 22, when the body approved Vladimir Putin’s request to use military force outside the country, two days before the invasion of Ukraine. The federation council said it would meet formally to discuss a package of anti-crisis measures in response to Western sanctions.
In a briefing with reporters on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed speculation about the introduction of martial law. A senior source working at one of Moscow’s three main airports also said he believed borders were “unlikely” to close.
“We were not informed of anything. I think it’s unlikely. At the same time, we are at war, so let’s see,” the source said.
But as speculation mounted, a feverish mood was felt in Moscow on Thursday.
Those looking to leave faced a severe lack of available flights after Western countries closed their airspace to Russian airlines. Moscow also closed its airspace to much of the west in response.
Flights to Yerevan, Istanbul and Belgrade have been completely sold out for the coming days while a one-way ticket to Dubai cost more than £3,000 ($4,006) – down from £250 ($334) in regular times – according to the Skyscanner flight aggregator. Train tickets from St. Petersburg to Helsinki were also sold out on Thursday and Friday.
Some men who left earlier this week said they were interrogated at length at the Russian border.
Andrei, a Moscow-based film director, said he was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport before boarding a flight to Baku.
Her luggage was searched and an official went through her private conversations on different messaging apps.
“He took my phone and spent a good hour scrolling through everything. Fortunately, I deleted all chats discussing my opposition to the war against Telegram and Signal,” Andrei said.
“I was asked if I ‘really’ loved my country and if I was against the war. He asked me why I wanted to “run away” and why I read independent media like Meduza.
“It was one of the scariest times of my life,” said Andrei, who was finally allowed to board his flight.
Amid growing uncertainty, central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina urged her fellow Russians to remain calm.
“We will definitely get through this… My friends, let’s remember that a lot depends on us, we must leave behind any differences and just help our colleagues,” Nabioullina said in a rare public statement broadcast on TV. Russian state. Earlier this week, Russia also introduced new laws to boost the country’s IT sector. Many Russians working in technology will likely consider leaving the country as their skills will be appreciated abroad.
But despite officials’ efforts to convey a sense of stability, some at the top of the Russian government themselves evacuated their loved ones.
“Our whole family flew to a country south of Russia earlier this week. We were advised to leave as soon as possible,” said the daughter of a senior Russian official who has met Putin on several occasions. “We’ll weather the storm here.”