“There are journalists fleeing because they lost their jobs, and there are those fleeing simply because they oppose the war and President Vladimir Putin and, more recently, many men who did not want to fight after the mobilization was announced in September.” Eva Roborot is a thirty-year-old Moscow academic who works in the Istanbul office of Noah’s Ark, a non-profit association founded by Russian defectors and funded by donations, which deals with helping fugitives in the countries they reach. According to the NGO, which has offices in Armenia, Kazakhstan and Poland, between one and a half million Russian citizens have fled the country because of President Putin’s war.
“Some come and go, others move to different countries and for this reason it is not easy to understand exactly how many have fled,” Roborot asserts, while an October article by Forbes Russia impugning the Kremlin spoke of more than 700,000 exiles who have fled after conflict. “We provide different types of services: information on which countries Russians can enter without the need for visas, legal assistance, we explain where they can apply for political asylum, and we also rent apartments where we temporarily host those who flee.”
After closing the borders of various European countries, “where many had hoped to go”, many Russians have chosen to flee to Turkey, where they are given a 60-day visa upon entry, renewable for another 30 if they leave and re-enter. country.
According to the NGO, the number of annual residence permit applications for Russians in Turkey in 2022 increased by more than 360% compared to last year. “A lot of people here feel kind of forgotten, it’s not a fully functioning democracy, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is talking to Kyiv but also to Moscow,” says Roborow, denouncing that many Russians in Istanbul fear the Kremlin will ask Turkey to forcibly return refugees. For political reasons, some of them are already known at home as dissidents. “The main problem for those arriving is finding work, there is a language barrier and the economic situation is very precarious,” Roboro explains. Many of the exiles have problems because the Russian payment circles were limited, some of them are able to work remotely, thanks to jobs that do not require a physical presence in Russia, while others have been able to continue their artistic career, such as Oxxxymiron, which is an anti. – Rapper Putin, who arrived in Istanbul, where he continues to produce music with an anti-war message.
Noah’s Ark not only provides practical assistance, but also organizes cultural activities for the exile community. Last week, a documentary was shown about Russians who fled to Istanbul, directed by Taya Zubova, who fled to Turkey herself. There were a hundred spectators, almost all Russians, but in the end Kristina, a young Ukrainian woman, rose to the ground and tearfully thanked those present for standing by Kyiv. In fact, some of them had taken part in the daily protest sit-in of the Ukrainian community in front of the consulate in Moscow not long before.
“Shortly after my arrival, they called me from Russia to tell me that the call-up orders to go to the front had arrived,” says Sergey, who is a Russian citizen but with parents of Ukrainian descent who fled upon hearing of the mobilization. “When the war started, I went to my family in Lugansk, to try to protect them, but in the following months I chose to flee because I risked being hired by the new pro-Russian administration to go and fight against my people,” says Igor. Instead, one of the Ukrainians present at the demonstration.
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