The “second wave” of Russians is now officially moving to countries spanning Europe, the Middle East and Asia after spending time putting their affairs in order.
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For months now, Vladimir has been preparing the papers and taking care of his affairs in order to move to France.
The once relatively easy visa application process is now fraught with complexity, but the 37-year-old is confident getting his family and staff out of Russia will pay off.
“On the one hand, it is comfortable to live in the country where you were born. But on the other hand, it is about the safety of your family,” Vladimir told CNBC via video call from his Moscow office.
For Vladimir, the decision to leave the country, which he considered home all his life, “was not made in a single day.” Under President Vladimir Putin, he watched what he called the “erosion of politics and freedom” in Russia over several years. But the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I think in a year or two everything will be very 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.
The second wave of immigration in Russia
Vladimir is part of what he considers the “second wave” of Russian immigration after the war. This includes those who took longer to prepare to leave the country – such as people with businesses or families who wanted to allow their children to finish the school year before leaving.
This flexibility was not available to everyone. When Moscow invaded Ukraine in February. 24, along with Millions of Ukrainians forced to flee their homes, the lives of some Russians became unacceptable overnight.
The “first wave” of artists, journalists and other public opponents of the Putin regime felt they had to leave the country immediately or risk political persecution for violating the Kremlin’s crackdown on public dissent.
“A lot of people have received notices saying they are traitors,” said Jane Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, noting the backlash some Russians experienced — even from neighbours.
But as the war raged, more Russians decided to pack up and leave.
“The way that migration takes place is that once the flow starts and people start figuring out how to do things — get an apartment, apply for asylum, find a job or start a business — that drives more people to leave. That becomes It’s a self-inquiry,” said Batalova.
There is no specific data on the number of Russians who left the country since the beginning of the war. However, one Russian economist estimated the total at 200,000 as of mid-March.
That number is likely to be much higher now, according to Batalova, 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 have gone to, those numbers are correct,” she said. This does not even include the large Russian diaspora abroad, many of them in Southeast Asia, who chose not to return home after the invasion. Batalova estimates this figure at around 100,000.
There is no definitive data on the number of people who fled Russia after the war, although economists estimate between 200,000 and 300,000 as of mid-March.
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In the technology sector alone, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 professionals left in the first month of the war, and 70,000 to 100,000 are expected to follow shortly thereafter, according to the Russian IT Industry Trade Group.
Some of the founders of startups like Vladimir, who runs a software service for restaurants, decided to move their businesses and employees abroad, choosing countries with access to capital, such as France, the UK, Spain and Cyprus. Vladimir transports his wife and school-age child, as well as his team of four and their families, to Paris.
They are pursuing more freelance Russian tech workers who have already flocked to low-visa countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey.
Next, there is a third group of tech workers at larger Russian IT companies who are left more of an obligation than a choice.
These people have faced a particularly difficult situation, said Mikhail Mezhinsky, founder of Relocode, a company that helps tech companies transition.
Many of them received warnings from clients abroad that they had stopped doing business with Russia. For them, it comes down to the low costs in Bulgaria, Russian influence in Serbia, and the tax advantages in Armenia, according to Mezinsky.
“Most of them do not necessarily want to leave Russia, where their homeland is,” he said. “But, on the other hand, they have their customers who buy their products and services from outside IT sources who have asked them to leave. Many of them have received messages from customers who said they would terminate their contracts if they did not leave Russia.”
The educated and the wealthy
The technology sector is one among many professional service industries that have seen a mass exodus of talent from Russia’s major cities, as people reject war and deteriorating working conditions.
Scott Antel, an international hospitality and franchise lawyer who has spent nearly two decades working in Moscow, so far this year has helped five friends move from Russia to Dubai and, in several cases, have purchased real estate for them, unseen, to expedite the move.
“You see a massive brain drain,” said Intel, whose friends are leaving the legal and advisory professions, as well as hospitality and real estate. “The disruption to the gifted is enormous and it will be more than that.”
About 15,000 millionaires are expected to leave Russia this year, adding to the number of people migrating away amid President Putin’s war.
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“Many of them feel that they have lost their homeland,” he continued. “Realistically, will this change in a couple of years? No.”
And it’s not just professionals who seek stability in overseas markets like Dubai. Having remained politically neutral amid international sanctions, the principality has emerged as a favorite destination for wealthy Russians as well, with many turning their fortunes into luxury. real estate market.
In fact, about 15,000 millionaires are expected to leave Russia this year, according to a June report by London-based citizenship by investment firm Henley & Partners, with Dubai ranked as the top location for the super-rich.
Caution among host countries
The second ongoing immigration comes amid reports that some former Russian immigrants have arrived They returned home, due to family and business ties, as well as difficulties resulting from travel restrictions and banking sanctions.
However, Batalova said she expects this comeback to be short-lived.
“I bet immigration from Russia will continue and when people come back it will be selling their property and homes and then leaving again,” she said.
But she said questions remain about the reception some Russian immigrants might receive in their host country.
“In this conflict, Russia is seen as the aggressor, and this attitude is transmitted to the immigrants. Even if they are [Russian migrants] Against the system, the general feeling can be transferred to the newcomers.”
In fact, there is a very real fear among some of the host countries that the influx of Russian immigrants could make them the target of a future Russian invasion. Moscow asserted that part of the justification for its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine was the “liberation” of Donbass, a region in eastern Ukraine home to a large number of ethnic Russians.
According to Batalova, countries like Georgia, Armenia and the Baltic states — all of which have suffered from Russian aggression in the past, and have existing concerns about their national security — are likely to be particularly concerned.
She noted that she “does not want Russia to come later and try to protect the Russians in those host countries as they did with the diaspora in Ukraine.”
However, Vladimir did not dissuade. He hopes to make a fresh start in his family’s search for a new home outside Russia.
“In terms of negativity, I’m sure it’s not 100% true for all people. In any country, with any passport, people can understand each other,” he said.