War in Ukraine: Russia faces an outflow of its technological talents

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Victims of sanctions against the Kremlin, Russians prefer to leave their country to secure a brighter professional future. This brain drain, which began with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, is being intensified by the war in Ukraine.

© Getty — Sergey Pyatakov – Host Photo Agency

Although it has been almost a month since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, international sanctions imposed by the West to weaken the Kremlin continue to take their toll on the Russian population. Faced with the suspension of major American and international groups in Russia, Russians today are deprived of access to many services and shops, most of them even have to reconsider their professional ambitions in the country.

Some choose to leave Russia to secure a brighter professional future. The technology sector is particularly affected by this phenomenon. And for good reason: Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, PayPal, Intel, Oracle, Electronic Arts, Twitter or even Spotify have decided to stop or significantly reduce their activities after the war started by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 has already prompted many Russian companies to take steps to reassure their foreign investors. But what was a marginal phenomenon seven years ago is growing significantly in the current conditions.

The cessation of Western activities in Russia, coupled with measures such as the exclusion of several Russian banks from the Swift system, is thus leading to an exodus of entrepreneurs, programmers and other talents from the technology field, Western sanctions and political instability currently make this difficult if it is generally possible to conduct international business in Russia. However, despite a wealth of skills, some Russians find it difficult to build a new life abroad as they face growing anti-Russian sentiment in the West as well as economic sanctions.

Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan or Thailand are the main destinations for brain drain from Russia

To illustrate this delicate situation for Russian citizens, TechCrunch exchanged with several Russian entrepreneurs and investors who decided to leave their country of origin. The American site cites, in particular, the example of Eugene Konash, who had employees in Russia who worked remotely for his London video game studio Dc1ab.

Surprised by the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the entrepreneur from Belarus saw for the first time that the bank of one of his employees was hit by sanctions, so the international transfers on his account were blocked. Things then got worse when the studio’s investors informed Yevgeny Konash that his company could no longer raise capital if it maintained a significant presence in Russia. Therefore, his team, based in Russia, felt it was time to leave.

Leaving is also the choice of Nikita Blanc, who abandoned her last name (Akimov) four years ago. While in Moscow, he began the registration process in the state of Delaware (USA) of his company Heeveryone, which is developing a tool for automating investor relations management, reports TechCrunch. After the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the entrepreneur, along with his wife and daughter, decided to pack their bags and go to Georgia, one of the main destinations for the current influx of Russian talent. Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Thailand are among the other destinations for this brain drain in Russia. To organize their departure and help each other, tens of thousands of Russians are exchanging messages in Telegram groups, US media explains.

Russians, we screwed up

But with international sanctions against Russia and measures being taken by players such as PayPal, Mastercard and Visa, it is becoming difficult for foreign customers of Russian banks to use their bank cards abroad. To circumvent these measures, some Russians are trying to obtain new citizenship. TechCrunch gives the example of a Siberian gambling investor who applied for Singaporean citizenship so that his Russian citizenship would not cut him off from the US dollar-based financial system. “Ukrainians all over the world are accepted as refugees, but we, Russians, are fucked”complained this investor to a website that specializes in startup news.

In these conditions “These educated, freedom-hungry Russian tech workers are unlikely to turn back”valued TechCrunchwho adds that these Russians are about to leave “were surprisingly calm when talking about the misfortunes of their country, partly because they were mentally prepared for the inevitable farewell”. As the war in Ukraine drags on, this exodus of Russian technical talent must continue, provided they are not viewed as pariahs on the international stage.

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