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Ukraine war

The mass exodus from Russia

Locals in Helsinki greet emigrating Russians with “welcome” signs. Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty 

No one knows how many people have fled Russia in the last two weeks, says Mikhail Viktorovich Zygar in Der Spiegel, but it’s definitely in the “hundreds of thousands”. In “perhaps the least visible exodus in history”, Russia’s middle classes are fleeing the country however they can. At least 20,000 have gone to Georgian capital Tbilisi, where disgruntled locals have launched a petition to introduce new visa requirements. With European airspace closed to Russian aircraft, ticket prices for flights from Moscow to countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan and Mongolia have increased almost tenfold.

The question of whether or not it is time to leave has been “the most popular topic of small talk in Moscow for the last 20 years”. Russia has a long and dark history of suddenly closing its borders: the Bolsheviks in 1918; the USSR during the Cold War. The current exodus is driven in part by people fearing for their safety. But many of my countrymen also felt they “could not allow a war to be waged in their names”. The Kremlin is glad to see the back of them: there are already proposals to strip emigrants of their citizenship and nationalise their property. And Putin will certainly be happier to have his critics elsewhere.