Russian emigration following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine

ongoing migration of Russian citizens in response to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine

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Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 300,000 Russian citizens and residents are estimated to have left Russia by mid-March 2022 as political refugees and economic migrants, due to increasing repression and a deterioration of the Russian economy.[1][2][3][4][5]

Reasons for exodus

Resons for leaving Russia include, but are not limited to, a desire to evade criminal prosecution for exercising free speech on the matter of the invasion. Nina Belyayeva, a Communist Party deputy in the Voronezh Oblast Legislative Assembly, stated that she fled Russia due to threats of criminal prosecution and imprisonment for having spoken against the invasion, saying, "I realized that it was better to leave now. Once a criminal case is opened, it could be too late."[6] Journalist Boris Grozovski stated that "We are refugees. Personally, I was wanted by the police in Russia for distributing anti-war petitions... We ran not from bullets, bombs and missiles, but from prison. If I wrote what I write now while in Russia, I would inevitably go to prison for 15–20 years."[7]

Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova stayed in exile in Latvia after she signed a petition against the war in Ukraine. She stated: "it was made clear to me it would be undesirable for me to go back," adding "I know I am not a traitor. I love my motherland very much."[8] Bolshoi Theater ballerina Olga Smirnova left Russia to continue her career in the Netherlands in protest of the war.[9]


Among the destinations that Russians have arrived in are Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia.[10][11][12][13] By early April, an estimated 100,000 Russians had fled to Georgia and tens of thousands went to Armenia.[14] Other major destinations include Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Latin American countries, and the United States.[15][5]

As the majority of European countries closed their airspaces to Russian flights following the invasion, Russians seeking to leave the country have often had to take detours through the Caucasus or have had to find overland routes. On 25 March, the high-speed railway between St. Petersburg and Helsinki was suspended by Finnish state railway operator VR, closing the last direct train route between Russia and the European Union.[16] The route had previously been a significant passage out of Russia for Russian citizens, particularly those who already had work or residence connections to Finland, as a valid visa and EU-recognised COVID-19 vaccine certification was required by the Russian government for passengers.[17][18]

Several EU countries, such as Latvia and the Czech Republic, have suspended granting visas to Russian citizens, complicating an exit for some wishing to leave Russia.[19] Some countries have allowed stays for some time without a visa; Turkey, for example, has allowed Russian citizens without visas to stay for up to two months.[13]


Those who have fled have tended to be young and well-educated professionals, leading some economists to suggest that fleeing Russians have facilitated a brain drain.[20] More than 50,000 Russian information technology specialists have left Russia.[21]



President Vladimir Putin called those who had left Russia after the invasion "scum" and "traitors", likening them to gnat-like insects,[22] and while some experts said Putin's ire was directed toward elites, and in particular, Russian oligarchs, statements from Kremlin officials have also labeled those who fled "traitors", as spokesman Dmitry Peskov affirmed the following day to Reuters:

"In such difficult times…Many people show their true colors…They vanish from our lives themselves. Some people are leaving their posts. Some are leaving their active work life. Some leave the country and move to other countries. That is how this cleansing happens."[23][24]

See also


  1. ^ Kantchev, Georgi; Gershkovich, Evan; Chernova, Yuliya (April 10, 2022). "Fleeing Putin, Thousands of Educated Russians Are Moving Abroad". The Wall Street Journal.
  2. ^ Demytrie, Rayhan (March 13, 2022). "Russia faces brain drain as thousands flee abroad". BBC News. Tiblisi, Georgia. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  3. ^ Bershidsky, Leonid (15 March 2022). "Russia's Brain Drain Becomes a Stampede for the Exits". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 2022-03-06. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  4. ^ "Russia's war migrants find mixed reception in Georgia". Japan Times. 4 April 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Who are the Russians leaving their country?". Deutsche Welle. 5 April 2022.
  6. ^ Belyayeva, Nina (8 April 2022). "'If I Didn't Speak Out, I Wouldn't Be a True Christian'". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  7. ^ "'We are refugees': Russians flee rising authoritarianism". Al Jazeera. 8 March 2022. Archived from the original on 9 March 2022. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Russian Actress Chulpan Khamatova In Exile Following Criticism Of Ukraine War". RFE/RL. 21 March 2022.
  9. ^ Прима-балерина Ольга Смирнова покинула Большой театр из-за войны [Prima ballerina Olga Smirnova left the Bolshoi Theater because of the war]. (in Russian). Svoboda radio. 17 March 2022.
  10. ^ "Putin's warning to anti-war Russians evokes Stalinist purges". NPR. March 17, 2022.
  11. ^ Plantan, Elizabeth; Henry, Laura A. (2022-03-31). "Analysis | Putin called fleeing Russians 'traitors.' Who's actually leaving?". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  12. ^ Najibullah, Farangis (2022-03-14). "Fearing Fallout From Putin's War, Russians Flee Abroad". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Archived from the original on 2022-03-21. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  13. ^ a b Gessen, Masha (March 17, 2022). "The Russians Fleeing Putin's Wartime Crackdown". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  14. ^ "Is Putin's war spreading?". The Spectator. 25 March 2022.
  15. ^ "'We had no choice': over 8,000 Russians seek US refuge in six-month period". The Guardian. Associated Press.
  16. ^ MacDougall, David (28 March 2022). "End of the line in Finland for last direct EU-Russia train link Access to the comments". Euronews. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  17. ^ "Russians pack trains into Finland as sanctions bite". France24. 4 March 2022. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  18. ^ "Russians take trains to Finland, one of few remaining escape routes". Yle. 4 March 2022. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  19. ^ "'Scared to stay': Why some rushed to leave Russia after war". Al Jazeera. 5 March 2022. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  20. ^ Boutsko, Anastassia (2022-04-05). "Who are the Russians leaving their country?". DW.COM. Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  21. ^ "170K Russian IT Specialists Could Emigrate by April – Industry". The Moscow Times. 22 March 2022.
  22. ^ Kolotilov, Vasiliy; King, Laura King (April 1, 2022). "Fleeing Putin's Russia: Exiles search for new identity, but find new problems". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 2, 2022. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  23. ^ "Kremlin: many people in Russia are behaving like traitors". Reuters. March 17, 2022.
  24. ^ Smith, Alexander (March 17, 2022). "'Scum and traitors': Under pressure over Ukraine, Putin turns his ire on Russians". Archived from the original on March 17, 2022. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
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