Russia EXODUS: Putin blow as tens of thousands of workers flee homeland to save careers

Roman Abramovich at Russia-Ukraine peace talks in Istanbul

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Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as many as 70,000 IT personnel are said to have left – with another 100,000 expected to depart in April. French news channel CNews said: “IT professionals are in a hurry to leave the country as soon as possible, not wanting to put up with a sharply deteriorating economic situation and not paying attention to the numerous measures to support the IT industry from the state.”

Similarly, the Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC) reported around 50,000 to 70,000 people working in IT had left the country so far, which they described as only the “first wave”.

The group said the only thing holding more back from leaving is expensive flight tickets, housing prices and the difficulties of conducting transactions after the backlash of Western sanctions.

Sergey Plugotarenko, head of RAEC, said: “There will definitely be a second wave, according to our forecast, from 70,000 to 100,000 people will leave in April. These are just IT people.”

Samuel Bendett, a research analyst and AI specialist, told “The IT workers’ exodus is associated with the massive pulling out of Western and global high tech giants from Russia. Many of those who left actually worked in those companies and for those companies, so they are trying to essentially save their career but going to those markets where their skill can be in demand.

“There’s definitely going to be an impact on many sectors and industries in the country because of the global IT companies’ departure from Russia.”

Mr Bendett said the hardest hit will “probably” be IT sectors which “relied most on international cooperation”. These include data centres, cloud computing and artificial intelligence research and development.

Natalya Kasperskaya, CEO of InfoWatch, said that it’s mostly young IT people with “fine mental organisation” who are fleeing Russia.

She said: “They are young people, in many respects connected with the West, they worked on Western hardware, such a breakdown of the system makes them tremble, so they need to be reassured”.

It’s not a new phenomenon as IT professionals have been leaving the country way before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ms Kasperskaya warned back in June 2020 that Russia was on the verge of a mass exodus of IT personnel as she said a massive outflow of the tech experts would continue due to the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

The Ministry of Digital Development noted Russia’s acute shortage of IT personnel in early 2021, saying the country lacked 500,000 to one million specialists in various technology fields.

Mr Bendett told “Many Russian IT workers have a very good reputation, and so they can potentially settle in many parts of the world to immediately resume work. This exodus is not just about the war, even though probably an absolute majority of those who left oppose it.”

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However, the defence and technologies expert added: “With approximately 200,000 people who left, this represents a smaller fraction of the larger Russian IT workforce. So there are plenty who still remain either because they cannot leave or because they may not want to leave. There are many Russian IT companies which are now stepping up and stepping in to fill the void left by those international companies that have left, offering their own solution to replace the global IT brands.”

Russian authorities are making every effort to keep IT specialists in the country by creating various incentive measures for workers.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on a package of measures to support IT workers in early March. One of the main points in the decree was a deferment from the army. The companies themselves also received significant tax benefits, various grants and preferential loans.

However, the efforts do not seem to have yielded results so far – as tens of thousands more IT specialists, as well as security officers and entire firms, are expected to leave in the coming weeks.

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