Sanctions on Russia are forcing its citizens to leave their country

Sanctions on Russia are forcing its citizens to leave their country
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos Municipality, Graubünden Canton on January 28, 2009, Wikimedia Commons

As the world watches in horror as more than two million people - almost half of whom are children - are fleeing their homes in Ukraine to escape Vladimir Putin's unprovoked war, there's another exodus underway in the region. Tens of thousands of Russian citizens opposed to the war, at least those with the economic means to do so, are leaving their motherland.

That's because they don't want to be trapped behind what many are referring to as a new "iron curtain" as an increasing number of companies suspend or cease business operations in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. As The Washington Post reports, the flight is occurring because of multi-national bans on Russian airlines, inability to access accounts in Western-sanctioned bank accounts and severe curbs by Putin's government on the flow of information within the country.

The newspaper reports that according to a list compiled by the Yale School of Management, some 300 companies have suspended operations or left the market since Putin ordered troops into Ukraine.

Many fear the possibility of martial law, conscription into the military or closed borders in a country careening toward a more severe form of authoritarianism. “As Putin tries to reduce Ukraine to rubble, he is also turning Russia into a prison,” Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said during testimony to Congress." Some observers say Russia's current state of freedom lockdown during the war is reminiscent of the Soviet era.

The impact of the squeeze on the Russian economy will not be felt uniformly, experts say. “For the average person who is less economically integrated with the rest of the world, they are going to feel it first when it comes to prices. They are going to see things disappear from the shelves,” Kristy Ironside, an historian at McGill University who focuses on Russia, told the Washington Post. “For the younger professional class, this is going to be devastating to them. Their lives are really going to change quickly.”

According to the Washington Post report, between 20,000 and 25,000 Russians have entered Georgia in recent days. A Western executive at one European company that is closing its Moscow office said several of his Russian colleagues have grabbed little more than their coats and passports in recent days and raced to the airport to catch any international flight available.

Some have landed in Dubai or Istanbul with a few hundred dollars in their pocket and little idea how they will get by. “They are aghast at what is happening to Ukraine. Some are leaving because they just don’t want to have anything to do with it,” the executive said. Rumors of the Kremlin declaring martial law and shutting the borders, he said, has also “absolutely terrified people.” So far, Moscow hasn’t prevented Russians from leaving.

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