Conflicts & War

Fear, despair as thousands of Russians flee their country

Helsinki, Mar 8 (EFE).- The high-speed train connecting St. Petersburg and Helsinki twice a day arrives crowded in the Finnish capital as thousands of Russians leave their country to flee sanctions and the fear of harsh reprisals for expressing their opinion on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Few of the Russians disembarking from the train want to speak to journalists.

Katya, who asked for her real name to be withheld, is one of the few who agreed to an interview.

“All my friends and family are in Russia and now you can be sentenced to 15 years in prison if you say something wrong,” the woman from St. Petersburg told Efe on the condition of anonymity.

“They are like hostages and I don’t know how to protect them,” she said, adding that she wanted to take advantage of her vacation time to leave Russia and find a future elsewhere.

“Nobody believes that the situation in Russia will improve in the short term,” she said.

“Those of us who belong to the generation of the 1990s have a more open mind and many families back then lived in such poor conditions, we cannot even imagine going back to that,” she added.

It is unfair that people lose their jobs as multinational firms leave Russia or temporarily close their businesses while Russia’s president Vladimir Putin escapes any damage, she said.

“Please do not blame the people of Russia for what is happening in Ukraine, we are hostages,” she added.

Anait Amirkhanyan, a Russian-Portuguese citizen spent her childhood in Russia but later lived with her husband in Portugal, to where she is now returning.

“The majority (of Russians) at the moment is somehow with Putin, but they don’t understand what is going on and in Russia we have extremely strong propaganda,” she opened up.

“When you see lies about the war on television about the war every day, you believe it,” she added.

The sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States on Russia will soon take its toll on the Russians, she said.

Russians alighting from the train from St. Petersburg are greeted by a Helsinki Central Station lit up in yellow and blue in solidarity with Ukraine. EFE


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