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In Tbilisi, Russian exiles do not envisage “possible return”

Alekseï is a programmer, he was on vacation in Mexico when the war broke out.  Rather than return 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 spring light for the first time. Aleksei (all first names have been changed at the request of those concerned) hurriedly crosses the courtyard of the House of Justice, a center for administrative procedures, without lingering in front of the translators offering their services, and goes at the counter reserved for the vaccination pass. Slender, with big green eyes, Aleksei, 33, left his hometown in Siberia a week after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. “For years, I have opposed the Russian regime which does not budge. The war was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could no longer live in this country. »

As a Russian, this computer specialist specializing in video games can stay in Georgia for a year without needing a residence permit. He does not plan to return to his country “as long as this power is in place” and says he wants “be part of the free world”. Far from being an isolated case, Aleskeï is part of this wave of Russians, 37,000 according to estimates by local authorities, who, since February 24, have arrived in Georgia.

fear and guilt

From the age of 27, Aleksei began to participate in political demonstrations. He also financially helped the organization of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK), and went to his meetings. In 2018, he was arrested during a rally against a new law increasing the retirement age. Sentenced to a fine of 150 euros, he has not participated in any 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 says, he was ordered not to publish any more political content on social networks. What he did. Until, on February 24, the date of the Russian attack on Ukraine, a feeling of guilt invaded 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 found, with the help of a Russian friend, 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. “For the future, I don’t worry. I have a job that allows me to live and work where I want.he slips.

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