In Tbilisi, Russian exiles foresee no ‘possible return’

Sergei is a programmer, he was on vacation in Mexico when the war broke out.  Instead of returning home, he decided to settle in Georgia.  In Tbilisi, Georgia, on March 31, 2022.

On this day, at the end of March, Tbilisi is bathed in the spring light for the first time. Aleksei (all first names have been changed at the request of those involved) hastily crosses the courtyard of the House of Justice, a center for administrative procedures, without pausing for the translators who offer their services, and goes to the counter reserved for the vaccination pass. The slender, big green-eyed Aleksei, 33, left his hometown in Siberia a week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. “For years I have resisted the Russian regime that does not flinch. The war was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I couldn’t live in this country anymore. †

As a Russian, this computer specialist, specializing in video games, can stay in Georgia for a year without needing a residence permit. He has no intention of returning to his country “as long as this power is there” and says he wants “being part of the free world”† Aleskei is far from an isolated case, but is part of this wave of Russians, 37,000 according to local authorities’ estimates, who have arrived in Georgia since February 24.

anxiety and guilt

From the age of 27, Aleksei began to participate in political demonstrations. He also helped financially the organization of the Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK), and went to its meetings. In 2018, he was arrested during a demonstration against a new law raising the retirement age. Sentenced to a fine of 150 euros, he has not taken part in a demonstration since then. ” I was scared “he explains, sitting on a bench in the House of Justice.

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But when Navalny was poisoned in 2020, Aleksei went to hospital in Omsk, Siberia, where the opponent was initially admitted. A few days later, he was summoned to the police station, where he said he was ordered to stop publishing political content on social networks. What he did. Until February 24, the date of the Russian attack on Ukraine, a feeling of guilt overcame him. “In Russia, people close to me, some of my friends and even my father, believe the Russian media. The propaganda is very strong there. †

In Tbilisi, Aleksei, with the help of a Russian friend, found an apartment in the center of the city. Before leaving Siberia, he managed to withdraw all his savings from the bank, enough to live on for six months. “I’m not worried about the future. I have a job that allows me to live and work where I want.he slips.

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