Russian tank targeted by Ukrainian forces in Kherson Oblast
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Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed his invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after some 100,000 had spent several weeks massing at the border with their neighbour. There is no firm data on the number of Russians who have left the country since the start of the war nearly five months ago, but has been reported this number stretches into the hundred of thousands. Since around mid-March, tens of thousands of people from Russia have rapidly relocated to nearby countries such as Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Israel and the Baltic states.
Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told CNBC: “If you look at the various destinations where people have gone, these numbers do ring true.”
Among this latest wave are those who took slightly longer to leave Russia, including those with businesses or families who waited for their young children to finish the current school year.
But many others were not so fortunate as alongside the millions of Ukrainians who were forced to flee their homes, life for other Russian became a nightmare almost overnight as soon as the war started.
A huge group that included some journalists who lashed out against Putin’s brutal regime, felt they had no other choice but to flee the country immediately or risk political persecution for violating the Kremlin’s fierce opposition to public dissent.
Ms Batalova said: “A lot of people got notices saying that they were traitors.
She added: “The way migration works is that once the flow begins and people start finding out how to do things — get a flat, apply for asylum, find a job or start a business.
“That prompts more people to leave. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle.”
A man named only as Vladimir, whose identity has not been fully revealed, is part of what he considers Russia’s “second wave” of migration following the war.
The 37-year-old has been preparing the necessary documents that would see him, his family and business move to France following a lengthy visa application process.
He told CNBC via video call from his office in Moscow: “On the one hand, it’s comfortable to live in the country where you were born. But on the other, it’s about the safety of your family.”
Under Putin’s brutal tenure, Vladimir described what he described as the “erosion of politics and freedom” in Russia for several years, with the brutal invasion of Ukraine fully making his mind up to move.
In the technology sector alone, up to 70,000 professionals may have left Russia in the first month of the conflict, and as many as 100,000 could follow soon thereafter, according to a Russian IT industry trade group.
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Start-up business owners such as Vladimir, who runs a software service for restaurant, are moving their firms and staff abroad, choosing countries with access secure to capital, such as France, the UK Spain and Cyprus.
Several other more mobile independent workers in the sector have already flocked to low-visa countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey.
The “second wave” of people moving out of Russia comes with reports that some of its earlier movers have returned home, due to personal and business ties, as well as issues around travel restrictions and banking sanctions.
But Ms Batalova said: “My bet would be that the emigration from Russia will continue, and when people do go back it will be to sell possessions, homes, and then leave again.”
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