‘The Exodus’: Why some Russians are fleeing their homeland amid Ukraine invasion – National

Earlier than his four-hour flight out of Russia’s Domodedova airport on Saturday, 32-year-old Vladislav Slepyshev wiped his cellphone clear.

On his social media, you’d discover him talking out in opposition to his nation’s president, Vladimir Putin. In his digicam roll, you’d discover images of him protesting the battle in opposition to Ukraine on the streets of downtown Moscow.

“For the posts I’m making, you’d simply get immediately 15 years in jail,” he stated.

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Russian authorities proceed to arrest protesters and block impartial information retailers because the battle in opposition to Ukraine rages on.

On Friday, Putin signed a invoice into regulation that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “pretend” reviews. Anybody convicted would resist 15 years in jail.

“I couldn’t maintain silent, so I made a decision I’m going to go,” Slepyshev stated.

He fled Russia on March 5, and headed to Tashkent, the capital metropolis of Uzbekistan, the place he has kinfolk.

He’s calls his departure, and the departure of the various different Russians fleeing the nation, “the exodus.”

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“I’m in a protected place now,” Slepyshev informed International Information, as he sat on a mauve-coloured sofa in his household’s house in Tashkent, simply hours after arriving.

As a teen, Slepyshev wished to be a Russian navy officer.

“I used to be very patriotic,” he stated. “The propaganda labored on me very effectively.”

That was earlier than he discovered his music, and frolicked engaged on cruise ships as a musician. He travelled to Vancouver in 2019.

Only a few days earlier than leaving Russia, nonetheless, Slepyshev attended a protest in assist of Ukraine in Moscow’s Manezhnaya Sq..

The invite to the protest got here as a message from the organizers asking individuals to affix them for a stroll.

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“You possibly can’t say assembly, you may’t say protest,” he stated, due to the opportunity of jail time.

Regardless of the robust legal guidelines in place, Russians throughout the nation have continued to protest in opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. On Sunday alone, protests occurred in dozens of cities throughout the nation, together with in Siberia and St. Petersburg.

In line with OVD-Information, a rights group centered on monitoring political arrests, a complete of 1,558 individuals have been detained in 43 Russian cities on Sunday.

Almost 10,000 individuals have been detained in Russia since Feb. 24, based on the group.

“(The law enforcement officials) appeared like storm troopers from Star Wars however they have been wearing all black,” stated Slepyshev, describing a scene from the protest he attended. “They simply seize individuals so the group doesn’t get bigger. I noticed a man get arrested proper in entrance of me. You get actually, actually scared. It’s actually (tough).”

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Whereas on the sq., Slepyshev met an older man who regardless of the heavy police presence held an indication that learn “no to battle.”

He and Slepyshev shared a hug and took an image collectively.

“It was so emotional,” Slepyshev stated. “It modified all the pieces inside me.”

Slepyshev says he’ll now use his guitar as means to make cash in Tashkent, the place he plans to remain for just a few months as he tries to get a Visa for Dubai, or any European nation.

Most of his cash, says Slepyshev, has both been transferred into crypto-currency or sits in his checking account with the potential of being frozen at any second.

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Like Slepyshev, Elena Podymova additionally took the choice of leaving her homeland final week.

For Podymova, regardless of residing in Russia for 25 years of her life, she says she doesn’t suppose she’ll ever return.

Born in Togliatti, a metropolis in western Russia, Podymodva fled to London final week.

“I felt relieved that I’d lastly have a greater life,” she informed International Information after arriving in London. “I don’t actually suppose that Russia is an effective nation for me to reside, particularly, when you don’t agree with authorities on a number of issues.”

Now 26, Podymodva instantly began looking for airplane tickets when the battle started.

It was tough to get out of Russia, she stated. To get to the UK, she first flew by Turkey.

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“Direct flights to London have been already cancelled. Aircraft ticket costs turned unrealistic however I didn’t wish to be blocked within the nation,” she stated.

“I noticed that that is the place the place I wish to reside,” she stated about her new house. “All the things got here collectively in a puzzle.”

Earlier than leaving, Podymova protested in Moscow, video running a blog her journey on TikTok to her over 61 thousand followers.

On Sunday, TikTok suspended new content material creation in Russia. The identical day Netflix additionally stopped service to the nation.

“As Russian individuals don’t have the best to do protests in Russia, they only tried to go on the streets and stroll in massive crowds,” she stated. “However everybody understands why individuals are there. It appears to me that almost all of such individuals are in favour of stopping this battle.”

Podymova’s movies doc her journey out of Russia intimately, from her boarding the airplane to her going to anti-war protests after arriving in London.

“Once I crossed passport management in London, it was solely then I exhaled and realized that now all the pieces is ok and I’m protected,” Podymova stated.

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As of Sunday, lower than two weeks after the battle started, Russian forces stepped up shelling of cities in Ukraine’s heart, north and south, a Ukrainian official stated. A second try and evacuate besieged civilians collapsed.

With the Ukrainian chief Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging his individuals to take to the streets and struggle, Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted blame for the battle to Ukraine, saying Moscow’s invasion might be halted “provided that Kyiv ceases hostilities.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudueau additionally arrived in Europe on Sunday to fulfill with allies and talk about the intensifying battle in Ukraine.

On Monday, Ukraine plans to ask the United Nations’ prime court docket to concern an emergency ruling requiring Russia to cease its invasion, arguing that Moscow’s justification for the assault is predicated on a defective interpretation of genocide regulation.

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— With recordsdata from The Related Press and Reuters

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