Russia risks causing new-year IT worker flight with remote working law
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[January 02, 2023] By
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's buffetted IT sector risks losing more
workers in the new year because of planned legislation on remote
working, as authorities try to lure back some of the tens of thousands
who have gone abroad without prompting them to cut ties completely.
Having relatively portable jobs, IT workers featured prominently among
the many Russians who fled after Moscow sent its army into Ukraine on
Feb. 24 and the hundreds of thousands who followed when a military
call-up began in September.
The government estimates that 100,000 IT specialists currently work for
Russian companies overseas.
Now, legislation is being mooted for early this year that could ban
remote working for some professions.
Hawkish lawmakers, fearful that more Russian IT professionals could end
up working in NATO countries and inadvertently sharing sensitive
security information, have proposed banning some IT specialists from
But the Digital Ministry said in December that a total ban could make
Russian IT firms less effective, and so less competitive: "In the end,
whoever can attract the most talented staff, including those from
abroad, will win."
'NEGOTIATING WITH TERRORISTS'
While many disillusioned young Russians have gone to countries such as
Latvia, Georgia or Armenia where the Russian language is widely spoken,
several have made a bigger leap - to Argentina.
IT specialist Roman Tulnov, 36, said he did not plan on returning to
Russia under any circumstances.
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A high-rise apartment block under
construction illuminated in the colours of the Russian flag is seen
next to skyscrapers of the Moscow International Business Centre,
also known as Moskva-City, in Moscow, Russia August 30, 20222.
"I had wanted to leave for some time. On Feb. 24, everything became
clear. I understood that there was no more life in Russia," he said,
crediting mobilisation in particular for the opportunity to work six
times zones away and still keep his job.
"Before mobilisation, no one thought about giving the go-ahead for
people to move to who-knows-where."
Vyacheslav Volodin, the powerful chairman of Russia's lower house of
parliament or State Duma, has said he wants to see higher taxation
for workers who have moved abroad.
Product designer Yulia, 26, estimated that a quarter of her team
would rather quit than return to Russia under duress.
"Such a non-alternative choice is a bit like negotiating with
terrorists: 'Come back or we'll make your job impossible, and for
your company and employees'," she said.
Some expatriate Russians might also be put off paying tax
altogether. Personal income tax of 13% is deducted automatically
from employees who are resident, but those who work for
Russian-based companies from abroad are left to their own devices.
Professional online poker player Sasha, 37, also living in
Argentina, said he had now stopped paying Russian taxes.
"When you pay taxes you support the state and its military
expansion," he said. "I'm not paying and don't plan to."
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Gareth
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