Some 14,000 Russians flee to Turkey after Ukraine war
Some 14,000 Russians have fled to Turkey in just three weeks after the conflict in Ukraine broke out because of what they describe as deteriorating conditions in their country, while more than 49,000 Ukrainians have also arrived in Turkey.
Among those Russians, who left their country, are anti-war bloggers, journalists, businesspeople, academics and activists.
Russian and Ukrainian citizens are not required to have a visa to enter Turkey and can stay for up to three months in the country.
“I was scared and worried that a new iron curtain would descend upon Russia, borders would be closed, and it would be impossible to leave the country. I was having panic attacks every day and under tremendous pressure,” recalled 23-years old Anna, who arrived in Turkey on March 7.
She traveled from Russia to Turkey with her family, friends and her three cats.
The war has affected the entire Russian society, Anna said.
“I hate dictatorships. Right now, they can put me in jail for 15 days for a single word I spell out that they dislike. I did not want to live under such conditions, and I am here now.”
She noted that a lot of people from Russia fled to Georgia and that’s why she wanted to come to Turkey.
“I had planned to vacation in Turkey but couldn’t. I had a plane ticket for Turkey. It was the first country that came to my mind,” Anna said.
Vadim Fıllır, a computer engineer, traveled from St. Petersburg to Istanbul last week.
Fascism has been growing stronger in Russia for a long time, and he was considering leaving the country every now and then, Fıllır said. “But it was not an easy decision to make…I had friends, a job and my home.”
He joined the anti-war protest held in St. Petersburg on the first day of the war. “You risk going to jail if you criticize the government. After the war, I realized that I did have a future in such a Russia. I and my girlfriend decided to come to Turkey. My girlfriend has business connections here, that’s why we chose Turkey.”
Fıllır noted that it is becoming increasingly difficult to leave Russia, recalling that their plane tickets were canceled several times.
Fıllır’s family is still in Russia, and they support the current regime there, that’s why he is not in touch with them.
“I have no idea what I am going to do. If things do not go well for me, I may move to another country, but I will never ever return to Russia unless the current regime changes,” he said.
Vladimir Piskunov was a violinist at Yekaterinburg Philharmonic Orchestra when the war broke out. He and her Ukrainian girlfriend, who was a harpist at the same orchestra, left Russia for Istanbul on Jan. 28, immediately after the conflict began.
“She woke me up in the morning the war started. We right away decided to quit our jobs and leave. Because Russia would become a dangerous place for my girlfriend,” Piskunov said.
They first tried to go to Slovenia, but the borders were closed and their plane tickets were canceled. “Then we decided to come to Turkey. The situation in Russia was getting worse, and we did not see a future for our children in this country. We are so sorry for young Russian soldiers and Ukrainian people,” he added.