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As More Russians Flee Over Putin's War On Ukraine, Other Countries Are Reaping The Economic Benefits

Russians line up to get a Kazakh Personal Identification Number at a public service center in Aqtobe. As of October 10, deposits held by Russian citizens in Kazakh banks totaled $1.42 billion whereas the deposits of all foreigners (Russians and non-Russians) in Kazakhstan amounted to $692 million just a few months previously. (file photo)
Russians line up to get a Kazakh Personal Identification Number at a public service center in Aqtobe. As of October 10, deposits held by Russian citizens in Kazakh banks totaled $1.42 billion whereas the deposits of all foreigners (Russians and non-Russians) in Kazakhstan amounted to $692 million just a few months previously. (file photo)

“When the war began,” said 45-year-old Sergei about Russia’s February 24 massive invasion of Ukraine, “we decided to leave for Kazakhstan.”

As soon as the school year finished in June, Sergei shut down his furniture-assembly plant in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, and left Russia with his wife and children. Like other Russians who spoke to RFE/RL for this story, Sergei asked that his identity be concealed out of concern for relatives and interests in Russia.

“I hope…we can stay here forever,” he told RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities. “In Kazakhstan, I can say what I think, and I can breathe freely.”

In the first half of 2022, 419,000 Russians left the country, according to the Rosstat statistics agency. Although more recent figures have not been released, the exodus has likely grown since President Vladimir Putin announced a military mobilization on September 21. While it is unclear how many of those departures were Russians leaving the country for the long term, the loss of working-age people, entrepreneurs, and trained specialists has been a significant drain for Russia.

According to the BCS Global Markets analytical firm, individual Russians sent $14 billion abroad in the first nine months of the year.

In addition, more than 1,000 international companies have stop working in Russia because of unprecedented Western sanctions levied against Moscow following the invasion. Some 320 have left Russia completely. Hundreds of Russian businesses have also sought greener pastures abroad.

Although the large influx of Russians -- many of whom have left their homeland for economic reasons rather than being political dissenters opposed to Putin’s policies -- has produced spikes in rent and property prices and enflamed anti-Russian tensions in some quarters -- countries like Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey are reporting significant economic benefits in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.


Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said last month that more than 50 international companies had relocated from Russia to Kazakhstan. According to Prime Minister Alikhan Smaiylov, dozens more firms are in the process of negotiating such a move.

“This will significantly help the economy of our country,” Toqaev said.

In addition, more than 100 Russian firms -- including Tinkoff Bank, ride-share company InDrive, game developer Playrix, and software developer MNG Partners -- have either relocated to Kazakhstan or are in negotiations to do so.

According to Daulet Argandykov, president of the Human Resources Development Center in Kazakhstan, such companies have created 4,000-6,000 jobs and have a total capitalization of $27 billion.

Kazakh banks have also seen a windfall, according to the state financial markets regulator. As of October 10, deposits held by Russian citizens in Kazakh banks totaled $1.42 billion, while in June the deposits of all foreigners (Russians and non-Russians) in Kazakhstan amounted to $692 million.

“We are seriously thinking about settling here,” Sergei from Novosibirsk said. “My wife is a doctor and has found work. Our children are going to a Russian school and seem to be liking the new situation. I’m working as a real-estate agent and at the same time I’m looking for opportunities. We’ll see what niches are open and where there is demand. I think there are good opportunities for business here. So we’ll try to settle in Kazakhstan.”


At the end of 2021, Armenia’s expected economic growth for 2022 was projected to be 5 percent. However, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, that figure was revised downward to 1.6 percent because of Armenia’s tight economic relationship with Russia.

On October 18, however, Armenian Central Bank Chairman Martin Galstian revised that figure again.

“We are now seeing a huge influx of Russians and expect 13 percent economic growth this year,” he said. “We are seeing 25 percent growth in human capital in the IT sphere. Talented, well-educated people are moving to Armenia, and this could have a long-term effect.”

More than 100,000 Russians entered Armenia in the first three quarters of 2022. About 300 large firms and 2,500 small businesses with Russian capital were registered in Armenia during the same period. In the first half of the year, money transfers from Russia to Armenia amounted to $1.1 billion, according to the ArmInfo/FinPort financial news website.

Russians In Armenia Talk About Why They Left Their Country
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Aleksandr is a 36-year-old Muscovite who moved his digital design studio to Armenia earlier this year.

“After the war began, my team and I decided we had to move,” he explained. “For everyone in the IT sector, the sanctions meant the end of any prospects. Using Chinese equipment -- and that is the best-case scenario -- simply wouldn’t work.”

All his team members took the maximum $10,000 in cash with them as they left.

“The rest we transferred through cryptocurrency,” Aleksandr added. “In the spring, Armenian banks were freely opening accounts for nonresidents, and we took advantage of this.”

He said he quickly registered his company -- “It took less than an hour.” And he has been able to take advantage of reduced tax rates that the government has implemented for the IT sector. He added that he doesn’t worry about staffing, since “new people are coming from Russia every day.”

“This is a huge bonus,” Aleksandr said. “There are people to discuss ideas with, there is a fruitful environment for communication, and there are people we can grow with.”


Georgia has also experienced economic growth with the massive influx of Russians since the invasion of Ukraine. The International Monetary Fund forecast on October 11 that the country’s economy would grow by 8.8 percent this year. The head of Georgia’s national bank, Koba Gvenetadze, was even more bullish, predicting growth of 10 percent.

“As a result of the Russia-Ukraine war and the corresponding sanctions, migrant flows into Georgia have increased significantly, which has stimulated corresponding growth,” Gvenetadze told journalists on October 26.

The bank also reported that money transfers from Russia to Georgia over the first 10 months of 2022 reached $1.135 billion, more than four times the figure from the same period in 2021. Russian citizens registered 6,419 companies in Georgia between March and June. The Interior Ministry has reported that 112,733 Russians entered Georgia between January and September, adding that the number of Russians in Georgia is now significantly higher because of Russia’s September 21 mobilization announcement.

'Ashamed': Russians Fleeing Mobilization Talk About The War On Ukraine
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The influx has driven up rental costs, particularly in Tbilisi, with low-income families and students confronting a mounting housing crisis. Experts warn the current boom might not last.

“We have to be aware that all these factors that are driving growth this year are temporary,” Dmitar Bogov, the lead economist for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), told Reuters. “And it does not guarantee sustainable growth in the following years. So caution is therefore needed.”

Oksana, 32, used to own a café in Novosibirsk. She and her husband made the decision to move to Georgia -- where they had honeymooned -- in the early days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On March 21, she said, they bought their one-way tickets.

Her husband, an IT specialist, continues to work remotely for his Russian employer. Later this month, she is opening a new café in Tbilisi together with another Russian woman who left Moscow because of the war.

“Georgia is a country of young people in love,” Olga said. “There are enormous opportunities here. And the main thing is that there is genuine freedom. You can do what you want, say what you think…. Create, flourish, open a business -- all avenues are open.”

She said it took only minutes to register her business and she was able to complete all the forms in English.

“You can tell immediately that you are a welcome guest…,” Olga said. “I hope that we Russian refugees can organically merge into Georgian society, that Georgia will become our new homeland. We have nowhere to go back to, and I am very grateful that they have welcomed us.”


The Turkish economy has also seen a boost from Russia’s travails. Turkey is the only NATO member that did not impose sanctions on Russia over the unprovoked invasion. In June, Turkish exports to Russia reached $791 million, a 46 percent rise over the previous year and the highest one-month volume since 2010. Over the year, trade between the two countries is expected to exceed $60 billion.

Turkish economic growth was 7.6 percent in the second quarter, exceeding expectations and making Turkey one of the fastest-growing of the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies.

The influx of Russians has seen an uptick in demand for residential properties in Turkey. (file photo)
The influx of Russians has seen an uptick in demand for residential properties in Turkey. (file photo)

Russians have become the leading foreign purchasers of residential properties in Turkey this year. The Turkish government’s statistical agency reported that Russians purchased on average 34 Turkish apartments per day through August. Demand has increased significantly since the Russian mobilization announcement.

Under Turkish law, purchasing real estate worth at least $75,000 qualifies foreigners to apply for permanent residence.

Roman Kazakov, an investor from St. Petersburg, purchased a residence in Antalya this year and moved to Turkey with his wife and their three children.

“My wife and I made the decision to leave Russia on February 24,” Kazakov told RFE/RL. “But when you have children and businesses, you can’t just up and move somewhere like a lot of people did after the war. You need to prepare a place for a soft landing. So we acted prudently.”

By the summer, the couple had settled on Turkey and Kazakov traveled to Antalya to buy a home.

“During the summer, the prices started going up, but it wasn’t so bad then as it is now, after mobilization,” he said. “We bought tickets for September 19…. A few days after we left, the prices were already completely different. A friend of mine flew from Moscow to Istanbul on September 25 [four days after the mobilization announcement] for 270,000 rubles [$4,400] per person.”

Kazakov is now in the process of developing a co-working facility in Antalya with another Russian who arrived there two months ahead of him.

“It is a new niche,” he said, “very promising, particularly now with the flood of new people from Russia and Belarus…. Plus I wanted to create a Russian community and find interesting people. So it turned out that almost straight off the plane, I took on a new business.”

He plans to open the facility soon and hopes to recoup his investment in eight or nine months.

“We’ll see how it goes with the co-working,” he added. “If everything is OK, I have an idea for my next business…. There are a lot of unoccupied niches in Turkey.”

Robert Coalson contributed to this report

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