Since President Putin invaded Ukraine in February, some 200,000 Russians have fled their country, scattering across western and eastern Europe.
Around 30,000 have landed in Georgia, a former Soviet country on Russia’s southern border, where it’s cheap to live and visas are easy to get.
Nika Nikulshina can’t see herself going home any time soon.
“I really think that I will not be able to go to Russia till Putin will, I don’t know, die, disappear, become a bug or something. So yes, I think we need to wait for his death.”
The Russian refugees are distressed at the invasion of Ukraine and the brutal crackdown on free speech.
Ekaterina and her husband Tikhon were high-profile presenters at the independent station in Moscow, TV Rain. When it shut down shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, they fled.
“There is no guarantee that they will arrest you, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t. So there are much more chances that you’re going to be in jail, if you go back and we’re not ready to have this kind of risks. We have kids,” says Tikhon.
“It was the most stressful and terrible moment of my life. We have decided everything that we are leaving and to you know pack up stuff and wake up kids in the middle of the night … A couple of hours and your whole life has changed”, says Ekaterina.
In a timely story, we film both inside Russia and in neighbouring Georgia, meeting the brave people opposing Putin and his war.
In St Petersburg, we meet 76-year-old artist Yelena who’s been arrested for protesting against the war but is refusing to stay silent.
“There are good Russians too. But now there is so much shame for our country, so much disgrace. Russia always had much to be proud of. But this is all so awful.”
Dissidents inside Russia are increasingly isolated as State TV whips up hostility against anyone who questions the government.
But those who’ve landed in Georgia feel vulnerable too because the Georgian government has been reluctant to criticise Putin for fear of reprisals. Many Russians living in Georgia are unsure how long they’ll be welcome there.
“We know that Georgian government is not happy with us being here because they are afraid that …Georgia will become a safe space for Russian independent journalists,” says Tikhon.
“It is not a safe space.”
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