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Russians flee Putin’s regime after Ukraine war in second wave of migration

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A ‘second wave’ of Russians are now formally relocating to countries spanning Europe, the Middle East and Asia after spending time getting their affairs in order.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

For months now, Vladimir has been preparing paperwork and getting his affairs in order for a move to France.

A visa application process that was once relatively easy is now dogged with complexity, but the 37-year-old is confident that getting his family and employees out of Russia will be worthwhile.

“On the one hand, it’s comfortable to live in the country where you were born. But on the other, it’s about the safety of your family,” Vladimir told CNBC via videocall from his office in Moscow.

For Vladimir, the decision to leave the country he has called home all his life “was not made in one day.” Under President Vladimir Putin’s rule, he has watched what he called the “erosion of politics and freedom” in Russia over several years. But the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine was the final straw.

“I think, in a year or two, everything will be so bad,” he said of his country.

The Russian Embassy in London and Russia’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Russia’s ‘second wave’ of migration

Once the flow begins and people start finding out how to do things … that prompts more people to leave.

Jeanne Batalova

senior policy analyst, Migration Policy Institute

A “first wave” of artists, journalists and others openly opposed to Putin’s regime felt they had to leave the country immediately or risk political persecution for violating the Kremlin’s clampdown on public dissent.

“A lot of people got notices saying that they were traitors,” said Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, noting the backlash suffered by some Russians — even from neighbors.

But as the war rages on, more Russians are deciding to pack up and leave.

“The way migration works is that once the flow begins and people start finding out how to do things — get a flat, apply for asylum, find a job or start a business — that prompts more people to leave. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle,” Batalova said.

An exodus in the hundreds of thousands

There are no concrete data on the number of Russians who have left the country since the start of the war. However, one Russian economist put the total at 200,000 as of mid-March.

That figure is likely to be far higher now, according to Batalova, as tens of thousands of Russians have relocated to Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Israel, the Baltic States and beyond.

“If you look at the various destinations where people have gone, these numbers do ring true,” she said. And that’s not even counting Russia’s large overseas diaspora, many of whom are in Southeast Asia, who have chosen not to return home following the invasion. Batalova puts that figure at around 100,000.

There is no concrete data on the number of people who have fled Russia following the war, although economists put estimates at 200,000 to 300,000 as of mid-March.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In the tech sector alone, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 professionals left in the first month of the war, with a further 70,000 to 100,000 expected to follow soon thereafter, according to a Russian IT industry trade group.

Some start-up founders like Vladimir, who runs a software service for restaurants, have decided to relocate their businesses and staff overseas, choosing countries with access to capital, such as France, the U.K, Spain and Cyprus. Vladimir is moving his wife and school-age child, as well as his team of four and their families, to Paris.

They follow more mobile independent Russia tech workers who have already flocked to low-visa countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey.

You’re seeing a massive brain drain. The disruption for talented people is enormous.

Then, there’s a third group of tech workers at larger Russian IT companies who are leaving more out of obligation than choice.

Mikhail Mizhinsky, founder of Relocode, a company that helps tech businesses relocate, said these people faced a particularly difficult situation.

Many have received ultimatums from overseas customers who are ceasing doing business with Russia. For them, it’s a toss up between low costs in Bulgaria, Russian influence in Serbia, and tax benefits in Armenia, according to Mizhinsky.

“Most of them don’t necessarily want to leave Russia, where their home is,” he said. “But, on the other hand, they have their clients who buy their IT outsourced products and services who demanded them to leave. Many got letters from clients who said they would terminate their contracts if they did not leave Russia.”

The well-educated and the wealthy

The tech sector is one among several professional services industries that have seen an exodus of talent from Russia’s larger cities, as people reject the war and worsening business conditions.

Scott Antel, an international hospitality and franchise lawyer who spent almost two decades working in Moscow, has so far this year helped five friends relocate from Russia to Dubai, in several cases purchasing properties for them, sight unseen, to expedite the move.

“You’re seeing a massive brain drain,” said Antel, whose departing friends span the legal and consulting professions, as well as hospitality and real estate. “The disruption for talented people is enormous and is going to be even more so.”

Around 15,000 millionaires are expected to leave Russia this year, adding to the increasing number of people migrating away amid President Putin’s war.

Oleg Nikishin | Getty Images News

Wariness among host countries

The ongoing second exodus comes amid reports that some of Russia’s earlier emigres have returned home, because of both family and business ties, as well as difficulties as a result of travel restrictions and banking sanctions.

However, Batalova said she expects such returns to be short-lived.

“My bet would be that the emigration from Russia will continue, and when people do go back it will be to sell possessions, homes, and then leave again,” she said.

But questions remain over the reception some Russian emigres may receive in their host country, she said.

They don’t want Russia to come along later and try to protect Russians in those host countries as they did with the diaspora in Ukraine.

Jeanna Batalova

senior policy analyst, Migration Policy Institute

“In this conflict, Russia is viewed as the aggressor, and that attitude is passed down onto the emigres. Even if they [Russian migrants] are against the system, the public sentiment can be transferred to the new arrivals,” Batalova said.

Indeed, there is a very real fear among some host countries that an influx of Russian migrants could see them become a target for a future Russian invasion. Moscow has maintained that part of the justification for its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine was the “liberation” of Donbas, an area of east Ukraine which is home to a significant number of ethnic Russians.

According to Batalova, countries like Georgia, Armenia, and the Baltic states — all of which have suffered at the hands of Russian aggression in the past, and have existing concerns over their national security — are likely to be particularly anxious.

“They don’t want Russia to come along later and try to protect Russians in those host countries as they did with the diaspora in Ukraine,” she noted.

Still, Vladimir is undeterred. He is hopeful for a fresh start in his family’s search for a new home outside of Russia.

“Regarding the negativity, I’m sure it’s not true for 100% for all people. In any country, and with any passport, people can understand one another,” he said.





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Tim Draper predicts bitcoin will reach $250,000 despite FTX collapse

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Tim Draper, founder of Draper Associates, onstage at the Web Summit 2022 tech conference.

Ben McShane | Sportsfile via Getty Images

Venture capitalist Tim Draper thinks bitcoin will hit $250,000 a coin by the middle of 2023, even after a bruising year for the cryptocurrency marked by industry failures and sinking prices.

Draper previously predicted that bitcoin would top $250,000 by the end of 2022, but in early November, at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, he said it would take until June 2023 for this to materialize.

He reaffirmed this position Saturday when asked how he felt about his price call following the collapse of FTX.

“I have extended my prediction by six months. $250k is still my number,” Draper told CNBC via email.

Bitcoin would need to rally nearly 1,400% from its current price of around $17,000 for Draper’s prediction to come true. The cryptocurrency has plunged over 60% since the start of the year.

Digital currencies are in the doldrums as tighter monetary policy from the Fed and a chain reaction of bankruptcies at major industry firms including Terra, Celsius and FTX have put intense pressure on prices.

FTX’s demise has also worsened an already severe liquidity crisis in the industry. Crypto exchange Gemini and lender Genesis are among the firms said to be impacted by the fallout from FTX’s insolvency.

Last week, veteran investor Mark Mobius told CNBC that bitcoin could crash to $10,000 next year, a more than 40% plunge from current prices. The co-founder of Mobius Capital Partners correctly called the drop to $20,000 this year.

Nevertheless, Draper is convinced that bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is set to rise in the new year.

“I expect a flight to quality and decentralized crypto like bitcoin, and for some of the weaker coins to become relics,” he told CNBC.

What is DeFi, and could it upend finance as we know it?

Draper, the founder of Draper Associates, is one of Silicon Valley’s best-known investors. He made successful bets on tech companies including Tesla, Skype and Baidu.

In 2014, Draper purchased 29,656 bitcoins confiscated by U.S. Marshals from the Silk Road dark web marketplace for $18.7 million. That year, he predicted the price of bitcoin would go to $10,000 in three years. Bitcoin went on to climb close to $20,000 in 2017.

Some of Draper’s other bets have soured, however. He invested in Theranos, a health startup that falsely claimed it was able to detect diseases with a few drops of blood. Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos’ founder, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for fraud.

‘The dam is about to break’

Draper’s rationale for bitcoin’s breakout next year is that there remains a massive untapped demographic for bitcoin: women.

“My assumption is that, since women control 80% of retail spending and only 1 in 7 bitcoin wallets are currently held by women, the dam is about to break,” Draper said.

Crypto has long had a gender disparity problem. According to a survey conducted for CNBC and Acorns by Momentive, twice as many men as women invest in digital assets (16% of men vs. 7% of women).

“Retailers will save roughly 2% on every purchase made in bitcoin vs dollars,” Draper added. “Once retailers realize that that 2% can double their profits, bitcoin will be ubiquitous.”

Payment middlemen such as Visa and Mastercard currently charge fees as high as 2% each time credit cardholders use their card to pay for something. Bitcoin offers a way for people to bypass the middlemen.

However, using the digital coin for everyday spending is tough, since its price is very volatile and the coin is not widely accepted as currency.

“When people can buy their food, clothing and shelter all in bitcoin, they will have no use for centralized banking fiat dollars,” Draper said.

“Management of fiat is centralized and erratic. When a politician decides to spend $10 trillion, your dollars become worth about 82 cents. Then the Fed needs to raise rates to make up for the spend, and those arbitrary centralized decisions create an inconsistent economy,” he added. Fiat currencies derive their worth from their issuing government, unlike cryptocurrencies.

Meanwhile, the next so-called bitcoin halving — which cuts the bitcoin rewards to bitcoin miners — in 2024 will also boost the cryptocurrency, according to Draper, as it chokes the supply over time. The total number of bitcoins that will ever be mined is capped at 21 million.



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George Clooney, Gladys Knight among Kennedy Center honorees

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second from left, and his wife, Evan Ryan, left, join 2022 Kennedy Center Honorees, front row from left, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight, George Clooney, Tania León, and Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter, back row from left, Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein, along with fellow 2022 Honorees Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., The Edge, and Bono for a group photo at the State Department following the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Washington.

Kevin Wolf | AP Photo

Performers such as Gladys Knight or the Irish band U2 usually would be headlining a concert for thousands but at Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors the tables will be turned as they and other artists will be the ones feted for their lifetime of artistic contributions.

Actor, director, producer and human rights activist George Clooney, groundbreaking composer and conductor Tania León, and contemporary Christian singer Amy Grant will join Knight and the entire crew of U2 in being honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The organization honors a select group of people every year for their artistic influences on American culture. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses are slated to attend.

The 61-year-old Clooney — the actor among this year’s musically leaning group of honorees — has television credits going back into the late 1970s but became a household name with the role of Doug Ross on the television show “ER.” conductor Tania León, and

From there he starred in movies such as “Three Kings,” “Ocean’s Eleven” (and “Twelve” and “Thirteen”), “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and his most recent film, “Ticket to Paradise.” He also has extensive directing and producing credits including “Good Night, and Good Luck.” He and his wife, humanitarian rights lawyer Amal Clooney, created the Clooney Foundation for Justice, and he’s produced telethons to raise money for various causes.

“To be mentioned in the same breath with the rest of these incredible artists is an honor. This is a genuinely exciting surprise for the whole Clooney family,” said Clooney in a statement on the Center’s website.

Knight, 78, said in a statement that she was “humbled beyond words” at receiving the Kennedy honor. The Georgia-born Knight began singing gospel music at the age of 4 and went on to a career that has spanned decades.

Knight and family members started a band that would later be known as Gladys Knight & The Pips and produced their first album in 1960 when Knight was just 16. Since then she’s recorded dozens of albums with such classic hits as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Along the way she’s acted in television shows and movies. When Knight and the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Mariah Carey described Knight as “a textbook you learn from.”

Sometimes the Kennedy Center honors not just individuals but groups; “Sesame Street” once got the nod.

This year it’s the band U2. The group’s strong connection to America goes back decades. They performed in Washington during their first trip to America in 1980. In a statement the band — made up of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. — said they originally came to America with big dreams “fueled in part by the commonly held belief at home that America smiles on Ireland.”

“And it turned out to be true, yet again,” read the statement. “It has been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, its artists, and culture.”

U2 has sold 170 million albums and been honored with 22 Grammys. The band’s epic singles include “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Lead singer Bono has also become known for his philanthropic work to eradicate poverty and to raise awareness about AIDS.

Christian music performed Amy Grant said in an interview with The Associated Press that she’d never even been to the Kennedy Center Honors even though her husband, country musician Vince Gill, has performed during previous ceremonies. Grammy winner Grant is well known for crossover pop hits like “Baby, Baby,” “Every Heartbeat” and “That’s What Love is For.” She’s sold more than 30 million albums, including her 1991 record “Heart in Motion,” which introduced her to a larger pop audience.

Composer and conductor León said during an interview when the honorees were announced that she wasn’t expecting “anything spectacular” when the Kennedy Center initially reached out to her. After all, she’s worked with the Kennedy Center numerous times over the years going back to 1980, when she was commissioned to compose music for a play.

But the 79-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said she was stunned to learn that this time the ceremony was going to be for her.

León left Cuba as a refugee in 1967 and eventually settled in New York City. She’s a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series.



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