Russian Migrants Cite Security & Wellbeing Concerns Related to War in Ukraine As Main Reasons for Leaving

About 300,000 Russians had left their home country since February 24, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine happened.

According to a press release issued by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), these numbers could grow even further, considering the fact that the number of Russians wanting to obtain an international travel passport, thus, those wanting to travel, has increased significantly compared to the previous year, reports.

The main reasons listed by Russian citizens for their decision to leave the country have been related to safety concerns and human rights, as well as Russia’s current economic state.

Safety Concerns Related to War in Ukraine & Lack of Human Rights – Leading Factors for Responsible for Russians’ Migration

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian territories nearby the warzone have reported shelling and other military-related incidents, making them feel unsafe enough to want to leave Russia.

A resident from the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine was injured, while another 12 incidents were reported. In addition, the independent Russian media, The Insider, has reported that the Russian military has deployed launch rocket systems inside living areas, including the one in Belgorod. On top of that, the Russian authorities in March raised the terrorist threat level to be yellow, which is two out of three potential threat levels.

The compulsory one-year active military duty that applies to Russian men between 18 and 27 years old is also one of the reasons why the Russian population is seeking migration routes, as although exemptions from the requirement exist and those refusing to attend – conscripts wouldn’t be sent to Ukraine, as the Russian Minister of Defence had pointed out, some people are known to have been sent to the war zone.

Lack of respect for Russians’ rights – as almost all independent media in Russia being banned or blocked and the remaining being subject to military censorship, is a strong indicator of the situation in Russia.

The Russian government has made ‘spreading false information about the military or any other Russian state body operating abroad’ a crime, with those found guilty risking up to 15 years in prison.

In addition, OVD-Info, an independent human rights media project, has registered 15,440 detentions in Russia regarding anti-war actions since the war in Ukraine happened, with some of those being recorded in peaceful protests.

The fear of reprisal, prosecution for anti-war protests, and censorship laws have forced thousands of migrants to leave Russia recently. A survey by OK Russians – a non-profit organisation helping Russians who oppose war, has revealed that out of 1,500 emigrants recorded in March 2022, 55 per cent claimed they had dealt with some form of political pressure right before leaving their home country.

High Prices & Low Income Also Force Russians to Leave the Country

Prices in Russia have soared since February 24, as European countries imposed severe sanctions on the country.

According to Consumer Price Index data published by Rosstat, Russia’s statistics service, the price for several foods has increased by 50 per cent, including sugar, while beetroots, carrots, cabbages and onions are 60 per cent more expensive than in December.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) anticipated that consumer prices in Russia would increase by 21 per cent throughout 2022.

These increasing prices have been related to fluctuating Russian currency levels (rouble), which in March hit a record low.

In May, the conversion rate reached 61.02 roubles for the euro, which shows a major recovery. However, the sanctions imposed on Russia, including those from Mastercard and Visa, left the country quite damaged.

Rosstat data further shows that there were 3.1 million unemployed persons over 15 years old in Russia as of March 2022, with about 700,000 officially registered as unemployed to the Federal Service for Labour and Employment.

In March, the Russian Ministry of Labour and Social Protection revealed that around 59,000 Russian employees would be fired, while a survey by Bloomberg anticipates that unemployment rates in Russia will exceed nine per cent by the end of this year.

In a survey conducted in the last week of February, 42 per cent of the Russian respondents stated that they believed their income would decrease significantly following the ‘special military operation’.

Russians’ International Flights Only Related to Visa-Free Travel to Turkey & Egypt

Due to sanctions, including visa-free travelling, which has been revoked for Russian citizens, the only international flights permitted are those to Egypt and Turkey. Whereas for Europe, the closest open points for Russia and the EU have remained Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Istanbul.

In addition, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (FAVT) revealed that in February, there were 1.6 million international passengers from Russia, with over one million of those (611,347) travelling between Russia and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Uzbekistan and other countries part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

As per irregular migration, Frontex – the European border and coast guard, has reported that, in March 2022, there were 13 detections of illegal border-crossings conducted by Russian nationals, with 11 of which being recorded in the Eastern land borders.

In addition, the Eastern land borders route accounted for 76 per cent of the 21 detections of Russian nationals detected by Frontex in the first quarter of 2022, as well as 87 per cent of 217 detections recorded last year. In the first three months of 2022, Russian nationals accounted for only one per cent of all irregular detections in this route.

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