According to experts, the war in Ukraine is likely to lead to the largest movement of refugees since the Second World War. It is not only Ukrainians who are leaving their homeland. Many Russians who think differently and who do not want to go along with President Vladimir Putin’s plan are also leaving Russia. In particular, it is also IT staff who are turning their backs on the largest country in the world in terms of surface area. What is the reason for this?
50,000 IT forces fled since the start of the war
It’s not just the sheer lack of understanding of the war of aggression Putin has launched against Ukraine. For many IT professionals, it is also simply existential reasons that are driving them to flee. After all, the extensive sanctions imposed by the West have simply eliminated the basis of work for a large number of specialists. For example, RAEC Director Sergey Plugotarenko wrote in an article earlier this week that due to
“unprecedented sanctions and the departure of IT giants and Western platforms”
there is simply no longer a basis for work for many IT workers. Certainly, there are likely to be other causes behind the flight. For one thing, there is the fear of what might come. Many are currently comparing Russia’s leadership with that of the Third Reich. If parallels were to emerge, dissidents would have to fear persecution. On top of that, there are growing indications that IT experts could also be involved in the war. They would not be given a weapon, but they would have to defend against cyberattacks or even carry them out.
Industry association gives estimate
In the current state of muddle, it is difficult to gather watertight information. This is especially true for the escape behavior of many Russians. Accordingly, it is not at all easy to give realistic figures for this. Nevertheless, the Russian Association of Electronic Communications (RAEC) has tried. It is a body that could hardly be closer to the source. After all, the association of the IT industry is made up of a total of 150 IT companies working in Russia. These include well-known Western corporations such as Apple and Microsoft, but also Russian companies such as Kaspersky. The destinations of those fleeing are exclusively in the immediate vicinity of Russia. In addition to the Baltic states, many are also drawn to Turkey or Georgia, according to RAEC.
Can some still be changed their minds?
Since the industry association itself is still active in Russia, it also seems to stay on the government line. Really critical tones to the war of aggression against Ukraine, which is against international law, can at least not be inferred from the statements. Quite the contrary. It is even suggested that a stop to the departure or even a return of the specialists could be possible. The prerequisite for this, however, would be more financial guarantees from Russia itself. RAEC writes thus:
“Russian companies compete for students and young mobile IT specialists not only with other Russian companies, but also with transnational IT giants and hundreds of startups – such as those in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany”
Since experience shows that the IT industry in particular is globally interconnected, it is hard to imagine that political reasons are not behind the flight of many employees. Rather, there is no alternative for the RAEC not to talk about the war as a consequence. After all, since the introduction of a law against “fake news,” the Ukrainian war can only be talked about as a “special military operation.” Anyone who publicly does otherwise faces draconian penalties such as a prison term of up to 15 years. Still, continued work in Russia is possible, according to RAEC.
“This means that in order to attract young talented IT specialists, a value proposition from the Russian employer in terms of tasks, prospects and remuneration is required.”
Even harder hit is Ukraine
Of course, the impact on the battlefield is far greater. Here, too, the IT industry is suffering, with many employees simply fleeing. But since no men between the ages of 18 and 60 are currently allowed to leave anyway, some companies have still kept their doors open. Especially in Kiev, where numerous start-ups are based, they are working as long as they still can. We hope that they will soon be able to go about their work again without fear of regular bomb sirens.