Fright follows flight

Fright follows flight

A growing number of Russians want to emigrate; but even those who leave have cause for fear
Sergei Guriev admits that his wife was right. Two years ago she left for Paris, saying that it was not safe to live under the regime of President Vladimir Putin. Now the leading Russian economist is joining her. The trigger was a request from the authorities to seize his emails, apparently in preparation for a case against him. His crime is unclear: it may have been giving an expert opinion about the legal status of Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil company, which was spectacularly dismembered in a Kremlin-sponsored raid ten years ago.

Guriev’s departure is part of a trend. Garry Kasparov, the chess champion and opposition leader, says it is too risky to return to Russia. Friends of Alexei Navalny, another opposition leader, fear he has left it too late: he faces jail on trumped-up fraud charges.

The mixture of lawlessness and repression is chilling. Overall, nearly a quarter of Russians want to emigrate. The figure is striking: 22%, up from 13% in 2009. The survey is by the Levada centre, Russia’s best-known opinion pollster, which the authorities are harassing because it receives some money from abroad and is therefore a “foreign agent”.

The unhappiest are the middle classes, who should be the biggest beneficiaries of the boom of the past 13 years: 45% of students and 38% of entrepreneurs want to leave, with the highest figures in Moscow and other big cities. So far emigration is a ripple, not a wave. About three-quarters of the discontented say they will stay put. Only 1% of those surveyed are actually taking practical steps to go.

But will they be safe even abroad? In the last month, three incidents have highlighted the Kremlin’s long reach. Russian opposition leaders meeting in Vilnius suffered repeated public intimidation from what appeared to be a dozen goons from the FSB, the Russian secret service. The Lithuanian authorities did nothing about that episode, or previous ones: Russia seems to be making a practice of sending intelligence and security officers to Lithuania under flimsy journalistic cover for nefarious purposes – and not just against Russian opposition leaders. Lithuania’s spooks have issued a public warning about Russian attempts to exploit social, ethnic and public tensions in the country.

Another shocking incident was in Prague, where the Czech authorities were forced to accede to the extradition of Alexei Torubarov, a Russian businessman who was seeking asylum there. Torubarov is accused of fraud and blackmail by Russian authorities; he says they tried to blackmail him.

When Russia issued an international arrest warrant, Torubarov was taken into custody and then – seemingly prematurely – put on a plane to Russia. However, before it took off, the government’s senior ministers ordered that the extradition be halted.

An extraordinary stand-off, reminiscent of a corny spy thriller, then ensued at Prague airport. The Russian officials accompanying Torubarov refused to release him. Some reports say they drew their weapons. The Czech authorities put a fuel tanker in front of the aircraft to stop it taking off. Eventually, though, they backed down. The plane took off. Torubarov has not been heard of since.

A third incident last month involved a renewed Kremlin attempt to get European countries to arrest Bill Browder, a British financier seeking justice for the whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky. Browder has avoided Torubarov’s fate, but it is clear that Russia is systematically abusing Interpol procedures in order to harass its critics abroad, on bogus charges of hooliganism, terrorism or fraud.

The outside world may have limited abilities to curb the Putin regime’s beastliness inside Russia. But it can at least ensure the safety of those who flee it.

Edward Lucas edits the international section of The Economist. займы онлайн на карту срочно hairy women https://zp-pdl.com/get-quick-online-payday-loan-now.php https://zp-pdl.com/get-a-next-business-day-payday-loan.php срочный займ на карту

online кредит на карту credit-n.ru онлайн кредит без процентов на карту
манимен займ онлайн credit-n.ru займ на киви без привязки карты
быстрый займ на киви кошелек credit-n.ru займ онлайн круглосуточно на банковскую карту
онлайн кредит на киви кошелёк credit-n.ru займ на киви кошелек без отказов мгновенно

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg

Place your comment

Please fill your data and comment below.

Your comment