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“My country has become fascist”

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Tens of thousands of Russians leave their homeland

While following the news of the bloody invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on social media last month, Ivan Sisoev made a decision he never thought he would make: to leave Russia.

He packed his bags, bought himself an “overpriced” plane ticket and flew to the international airport of Kazan, a city of 1.2 million people in western Russia.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY IVAN SISOEV

Ivan Sisoev

Passport controls were rumored to be very tight, but I had no trouble getting through.

Ivan Sisoev, in conversation with The Press

A 27-year-old musician and composer, Ivan Sisoïev is now in exile in Turkey. Under Western sanctions, his credit cards no longer work. “In Russia, I paid for everything with my iPhone and my Apple Watch. In Turkey, I have to pay everything in cash. You quickly get used to paying cash. He is now trying to work remotely and think about the next step.

Even if they say that their fate has nothing to compare with that of the Ukrainians who are bombed, the Russians who leave Russia find themselves in a strange no-man’s land, where their bearings are no longer the same.

Denis Rossiev, a 32-year-old visual artist who lived in Moscow, left Russia in a hurry to travel to Dubai, one of the only destinations still open to flights leaving Russia since the imposition of Western sanctions.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY DENIS ROSSIEV

Denis Rossiev

I was very nervous: some people were questioned before my flight, and many flights were canceled before and after mine.

Denis Rossiev

For Charlotte, a Russian citizen who fled with her husband and who wishes to remain anonymous, the idea of ​​leaving Russia had been in the air for about five years. “But this war has shown me that Putin is now completely out of his mind and my country has gone fascist. I couldn’t wait any longer,” she explained in an interview from Serbia, where she is a refugee with her husband.

200,000 people

From Potsdam, Germany, where he lives, Roman V. Shaposhnik works day and night to help Russians who want to leave Russia since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This week, he just launched with colleagues an initiative called Paperclip Project which aims to help Russian entrepreneurs relocate their business to Cyprus.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY ANITABARCSA

Roman V. Shaposhnik

Many people realize that it will no longer be possible to access a global market from Russia, so they fly to Cyprus and relaunch their business.

Roman V. Shaposhnik

Konstantin Sonin, an economist at the University of Chicago, estimated that around 200,000 Russians fled in the first 10 days of the invasion, a number that has certainly increased significantly since then. At least 80,000 Russian citizens are said to have traveled to Armenia, while tens of thousands of others have gone to Georgia, Turkey, Estonia, Latvia and Finland, among others.

Many are beginning to believe that this exodus will resemble that of the early 1990s, when at least 1.2 million Russians left the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic crisis it caused.

Ekaterina Piskunova, a lecturer in the political science department at the University of Montreal, has a feeling of deja vu: she herself left Russia 22 years ago.

“I didn’t want to stay in a country led by someone like Vladimir Putin,” she says.

The people who are leaving today are mostly younger people, professionals who have known a good standard of living in Russia, and who regret that the country is not freer and more democratic. “They are not happy with the attitude towards human rights, towards the control of the media, in short, things that we take for granted in the West. They want something more,” says M.me Piskunova.

The specter of conscription

When asked what prompted him to leave, Ivan Sisoev does not hesitate: it was the specter of conscription that was the trigger.

If the Russian government can attack a neighboring Russian-speaking country, it can also conscript me into the army. I don’t want to die for elite yachts and palaces.

Ivan Sisoev

Denis Rossiev meanwhile rented an apartment in Dubai, and for the moment pays his food and his rent thanks to his cryptocurrency wallet. He does not plan to return to live in Russia. “I’m thinking about what I’m going to do next,” he says.

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