Migration applications suggest about 15,000 Russian millionaires — as calculated in U.S. dollars — are attempting to leave the country, a reflection of the deep skepticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine within the business elite and oligarch community, British intelligence officials said Friday.
“Motivations highly likely include both personal opposition to the invasion and an intent to escape the financial impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in a daily update on the war. “Should this exodus continue, it will likely exacerbate the war’s long-term damage to Russia’s economy.”
Russia could not take Kyiv in the early days of the war that began on Feb. 24. Since then, it has focused on the eastern Donbas region and is slowly gaining territory. The West imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow, prompting Mr. Putin to promote self-reliance within the domestic economy.
U.K. officials said Russia has accelerated its “long-term trajectory toward authoritarianism” at home, with the Duma considering a 20-year prison sentence for Russians who fight against the federation.
The British ministry said the “Freedom for Russia Legion,” constructed of defectors from the Russian army and Russian and Belarusian volunteers, has “almost certainly” deployed alongside the Ukrainian army.
Speaking out against the war in Russia is also being criminalized.
“Despite the majority of Russians telling pollsters they support the ‘special military operation,’ elements of the population both actively and passively demonstrate their opposition,” the ministry said. “Some high profile Russian officials have highly likely been side-lined after criticizing the war.”