In Georgia, Russian émigrés see familiar Kremlin tactics

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, an estimated 100,000 Russians found refuge in the neighbouring Caucasus republic of Georgia. Many continue to work in the IT services sector for Russian firms. Others have opened their own businesses. Most express their solidarity with the thousands of Georgians demonstrating against the law on "foreign influence" which was approved by Georgia's parliament on Tuesday.

We'll call her Sofia. We met the 26-year-old woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, in a café in Tbilisi's trendy Vera district, a favourite haunt of the Georgian capital's young Russian community.

In perfect English, she tells how she "left Saint Petersburg – the most beautiful city in the world – almost two years ago, in the autumn of 2022. But in my mind, I'm still living in Russia.”

Her boyfriend, an IT specialist, works remotely for clients in Russia. Sofia gives English lessons and offers online help to Ukrainian refugees who have settled in the United States or Britain and wish to improve their English or write a CV.

A year and a half later, the buildings of her adopted city are covered in anti-Russian graffiti. At issue is a law designed to reduce "foreign influence" in Georgia, which protesters call the "Russian law".

At a table with two friends, between cigarettes and coffees, he tells us how he managed to keep his job. "I work for a big Russian CCTV company. My boss didn't object when I told him I was going to work remotely from abroad."


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