Emigration from Russia on the rise
The war in Ukraine has not only forced millions living there to flee, it is also fuelling an exodus from Russia - the most recent prominent case being Olga Smirnova, prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre, who is now in the Netherlands. According to an assessment by research website Thrivemyway, Russians have done millions of online searches for "emigration from Russia 2022" since the end of February. How will they be received in Europe?
Asylum for defenders of freedom and democracy!
Commenting in El País, Mikhail Sygar, former editor-in-chief and presenter of the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, and Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders, call on Europeans to grant refugee status to Russian exiles:
“They have fought a long battle for freedom and democracy, which they have just lost. ... Independent Russian journalists and the Russian civil society in exile need the support of democratic countries like the United States and the member states of the European Union. They must be granted refugee status. ... We call on the White House, the European Council and the European Commission to implement an ambitious admission plan so that these free Russian voices can maintain their intellectual resistance.”
Discrimination plays into Putin's hands
Público stresses that these emigrants must not be condemned because of their Russian origins:
“Xenophobia will not stop the sense of injustice in view of the loss of innocent lives in Ukraine. ... We would be promoting Russian propaganda, which says that the moralistic West, which accuses Russians authoritarian tendencies, is the same West that ultimately persecutes people on the basis of their nationality and cultural origin - forgetting what it claims to defend: the rule of law, democracy, respect for the individual, diversity and pluralism.”
No way back now
The Russian state-owned news agency Ria Novosti echoes Putin's stance:
“Many representatives of our 'elite' have left the country, simply taken off. Some out of fear. Others because they could not bear to continue breathing the same air as the plebs. So what has happened here is not only a betrayal of their own people, but also what Putin has very rightly termed the natural and necessary process of self-purification of our society. Everyone can see what the word 'homeland' means for different people at this difficult time. There is no way back - not in the sense that those who have left cannot come back (because many will), but because we cannot go back. Our attitude towards those who have fled is no longer the same.”