back to article Russian IT pros flee Putin, says tech lobby group

Between 50,000 and 70,000 Russian IT professionals have left the country in recent weeks, and more plan to follow, according to the Russian Association of Electronic Communications, an organization that promotes online businesses. A Tuesday post by asociation director Sergey Plugotarenko says the exodus is the result of tech …

  1. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Devil

    Russxit

    It will be a good occasion for the FSB to try to implant some moles in hi-tech western companies.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Russxit

      Could work both ways, imagine Putin and his cronies getting an endless stream of information telling him how much better the world is outside of his grasp!

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Russxit

        Given that no one had the bollocks to tell him the truth about how difficult it would be to "walk into" Ukraine, Putin's probably under the impression that we still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

        1. b0llchit Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: Russxit

          ...we still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

          They are, aren't they? I think it is a neat idea.

          (we desperately need an old fart icon and the possibility to combine it with a some liquid sarcasm)

          1. TimMaher Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: old fart icon

            I always thought it was this ——->

            1. b0llchit Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: old fart icon

              That is just the average windows user (see mouse-over text).

              The icon is appropriate because this group tends to age very fast and become alcoholics while waiting for those damn updates to install.

              1. J. Cook Silver badge
                Go

                Re: old fart icon

                Ain't got nuthin on UCS C chassis firmware updates; I've averaging 90 minutes per host. Thankfully, I only have 4 of them left to do after this current one finishes it's thing.

          2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Russxit

            no they arn't, and coming down from the trees was a bad idea , we should all go back!

            1. b0llchit Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Russxit

              But but... we cut down the trees and instead created skyscrapers where we live. So, in a way we did go back. Only thing missing is a bucket of green paint.

            2. Snowy Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Russxit

              No it all started to go wrong when we left the sea!

        2. Richard Pennington 1
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Russxit

          No-one able to tell truth to power. Wasn't that the plot of "Billion Dollar Brain"? (1966 book by Len Deighton; 1967 film starring Michael Caine)?

      2. Martin-73 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Russxit

        he's too much of a narcissist to take such reports seriously. It would literally all be a 'conspiracy against him, personally' even if such reports flooded in and were genuine

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Russxit

          I read an article somewhere — alas I do not recall the source — that claimed Putin's political career has been largely shaped by profound bitterness at what he felt was the USSR's abandonment of him and his KGB compatriots in East Germany during the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. In this reading, his rule over post-Soviet Russia has been primarily concerned with correcting what he sees as weakness in the late USSR and the first nine years of post-USSR Russia, and attempting to create a new Russian empire.

          There's a scene in Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary where Gentian and her father are discussing Gentian's recently-thwarted adversary, who is also The Adversary, if you take my meaning. Gentian says she thinks she hurt his feelings, and her father remarks that "his feelings are permanently hurt". (Milton of course makes a similar observation, at somewhat greater length.)

          That's how I imagine Putin. His feelings are permanently hurt, and he's happy to burn the world out of spite.

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: Russxit

            i ABSOLUTELY think you are correct. And that scares me

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Russxit

      They already have enough of them and the exodus is not directly to the west but to other former communist countries such as Georgia where being discovery of involvement in pro-Russian activities might carry a slightly higher price.

      The fact of the matter for Russia is that it doesn't have enough engineers to maintain the war effort as it is and many of these are leaving if they get the chance. This is the direct consequence of the kleptocracy that has eroded the status that used to be attached to such employment.

    3. Plest Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Russxit

      You're assuming they aren't in there already?

  2. Stork Silver badge

    Logistics software?

    If reports are to be believed, the armed forces could be a customer.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Logistics software?

      They probably were already. See where that got them.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Logistics software?

      Not really the software as much as everything else: food, fuel, munitions. But also the engineers and technicians required not only for the weapons but for the trucks that keep breaking down on the way.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Logistics software?

        I reckon Serco have been running the Russian army, but nobody talks about it because deploying Serco against other countries is technically an act of war and may contravene the Geneva conventions.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Logistics software?

          Whoever's running it, there's one thing we can be sure of. They've outsourced the IT side to Capita.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Logistics software?

      Software is not going to help very much when the wheels come off your invasion. And your trucks. Literally.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Logistics software?

        "Software is not going to help very much when the wheels come off your invasion. And your trucks. Literally."

        Try telling my old manufacturing director that. At the change management boards his first question on being presented with hardware changes was nearly always, "Can't it be fixed in the software?".

      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: Logistics software?

        The wheels don’t even need to come off. The famous Ukrainian bottomless mud roads will swallow vehicles wheels, tracks and all as soon as the temperature gets above zero.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Logistics software?

          Which is why Russian generals have been complaining about the wrong kind of mud

          Mine's the one with the British Rail crest…

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Pint

    I like it when El Reg putin some puns into their headlines/taglines/articles.

    That ---> is for the good punnery, keep it up.

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Interesting thing to note.

    Qualified and technical people are leaving South Africa due to politics.

    And it seems Russia's havening the same issue.

    Things sure will get interesting going forward.

    Wonder if the ransomware punters and other internet-ne'er-do-wells will also follow suit?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Wonder if the ransomware punters and other internet-ne'er-do-wells will also follow suit?

      They wouldn't dare, life wouldn't be good for them outside of Russia's protection (inside a western prison).

      1. Flywheel Silver badge
        Facepalm

        inside a western prison

        It'd be an Open Prison for low-risk prisoners. Maybe they'd get let out for shopping trips - y'know, human rights and all that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      could happen in the united states also

      with a certain US political party pushing for voting restrictions, rights restrictions, and overall insanity

  5. DrXym Silver badge

    Wonder where they went

    I doubt they're welcome in Europe or the US at the moment.

    Anyway I recall some article recently saying Russia was panicking over a potential exodus and was basically offering them a 0% tax rate, exemption from military service and other incentives to get them to stay.

    On a side note, Russia's annual conscription cycle starts in April. I wonder how many will fail to present themselves for training knowing their likely fate if they do.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Wonder where they went

      And that is bollocks. Punishing people that clearly do not support Putin,we should welcome them.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Wonder where they went

        >we should welcome them.

        Well they are white but do they have enough $$$ to make up for not being English ?

      2. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Wonder where they went

        How do you know they don't support Putin? For all you know they just want to be paid more money and get out of the shithole that is Russia now.

        Same reason that lots of countries have suffered a brain drain. There is also a very real chance that Russia security services would lean on some of them to steal source code and other secrets if they were permitted to work in the West. Why would Western countries want that grief?

        1. teknopaul Silver badge

          Re: Wonder where they went

          Re "how would you know they aren't Putin supporters"

          You could ask some tricky questions to see if they fell for Putin's propaganda...

          do you think Jews are

          a) jews

          b) nazis

          c) communists

          d) all of the above

          pizzagate is

          a) a pizza shop

          b) a conspiracy theory

          c) a basement in Washington where they eat babies brains

          d) all of the above

          Putin is

          a) a communist

          b) a criminal

          c) pretty smart actually, and a great friend of mine

    2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: Wonder where they went

      I’d read an article somewhere (perhaps Der Spiegel ?) that mentioned that Armenia was one place where small Russian software companies were relocating and reïncorporating. Along with Armenia, I think that there are still flights to Turkey and Georgia (and presumably China and the central Asian -stans, and perhaps other non-aligned countries worldwide) from Russia, so I’d guess that there are still many options for Russian emigrants.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wonder where they went

        Mexico doesn’t require a visa for Russian citizens, so there’s been an influx of Russians making their way to the Mexico-US border crossing in Tijuana to claim asylum. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/11/us/russians-ukrainians-us-border.html?searchResultPosition=3

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wonder where they went

          Surely Trump's wall will stop them.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Wonder where they went

            Surely Trump's wall will stop them.

            O? When did the Mexicans pay for it?

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the reviews on this marketplace may not be entirely frank and fearless."

    Published reviews might not but the intended market will be quite capable of forming their own views.

    However I wonder if Russian idiom lends itself to comments such as "You will be very fortunate to have this operating in your system."

  7. Plest Silver badge

    Oh well!

    Old "Vladolf" has made his bed and he's gonna have to bloody well lie in it!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh well!

      Will that be a flower bed? If so, pass him a spade.

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Oh well!

        Specifically a sunflower bed, I'm led to believe.

        Watch out for drones --->

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the cold war days, the western countries had what amounted to an embargo of exporting high-tech equipment like computers to the USSR (CoCom), with the covert goal of sabotaging their economy as without IT, it was unable to keep developing its economy to the extent the western countries could. While many factors certainly played a role, the tech embargo strategy seems to have basically worked, and no doubt contributed substantially to what happened in 1989.

    In some ways, the situation is similar to today. But how similar? Clearly there are a lot of capable SW developers in Russia (despite some of them leaving), and in contrast to back then, Russia will have plenty of hardware to run the SW on for the foreseeable future.

    The question is how self-sufficient Russia is today in terms of high-tech goods and systems - can they make their own computers, servers switches, phones, etc? If they cannot they will in fact be vulnerable to actions like "bricking all iPhones" or being removed from the financial transfer system in the short term, but how long can they survive with the present infrastructure they have imported from abroad? I would suspect a couple of years, at least. I am sure Putin will have worked hard to reduce this vulnerability the past years - so the question is how successful he has been.....in any case the leverage potential short-term to get him to stop warring seems very limited. But longer-term, the impact on Russia could be huge, especially without the help of the Chinese.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: how successful he has been

      There was a good radio program here about Putin falling to the "dictator syndrome".

      Basically, like Hitler before (see the "Der Untergang" excellent german movie), he apparently seems to have fallen to isolation plus his own propaganda.

      So, he probably has a superbly optimistic view of the situation from up where he stands, same like "we'll walk to Kiev in 3 days", while the situation, on the fields, is quite dramatically different.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: how successful he has been

        Upvote for Der Untergang (better known to English speakers as "Downfall"). A truly excellent movie. Skin-crawling at times and unflinching in its depiction of the horrors of the regime, and what it did to the German population - never mind what it did to the rest of the world.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: how successful he has been

        Also, like Hitler and Stalin, Putin's dislike of negative reports has seen him being provided with, ah, rather irrealisticly optimistic data on just about everything. Especially when those reports get positivicated with every step upwards through the bureaucracy.

    2. myhandler

      I read on another forum, from a Russian uaing a VPN, that they have a shortage of paper - they still like to print lots. Till receipts, official docs, but there's a loo roll shortage too.

      But they can't quickly convert to plastic payment - they buy in the credit card plastic and card chips. Lots of the population lack smart phones - but those that do have them dislike QR codes as part of their anti vax beliefs. Not enough CCTV cameras either.

      They didn't think to build up a central warehouse of server stuff, hard drives, what have you.

      Then they manage this on a region by region basis and the regulations are different between them.

      The buck (rouble) needs to stop with that disgusting cretin at the top.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        The buck (rouble) needs to stop with that disgusting cretin at the top.

        That is overpaying him by a rather large margin, I wouldn't give him more than a kopek.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "I wouldn't give him more than a kopek"

          You wouldn't need to. He & his cronies would steal the rest. This is part of the problem. They've run out of things to seal in Russia so now they're trying to steal a whole country.

      2. DJO Silver badge

        There are shortages of everything and that's been the case for a while, long before this latest act of aggression.

        Corruption is now endemic in Russia and is part of the reason they are failing to Blitzkrieg into Ukraine - probably over half the money assigned to modify the Russian army got diverted to pay for yachts and Ferraris.

        Putin has if you divide an middle estimate of his personal wealth by the 22 years he's been in power, he's gained over $1m every single hour and he's not alone, everybody at the top has their trotters firmly in the trough - no economy can survive that sort of attrition.

        1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          part of the reason they are failing to Blitzkrieg into Ukraine

          I’d attribute a greater part of that to slogging against the распутица due to when their attack was launched.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: part of the reason they are failing to Blitzkrieg into Ukraine

            It helped stop the nazis, it's surprising he knows so little of his own history.

    3. juice Silver badge

      > Back in the cold war days, the western countries had what amounted to an embargo of exporting high-tech equipment like computers to the USSR (CoCom), with the covert goal of sabotaging their economy as without IT, it was unable to keep developing its economy to the extent the western countries could.

      As far as I know, it actually was an embargo, and was primarily aimed at making it harder for the USSR to get access to high tech which could be weaponised, especially when it came to things like high-precision tooling or fast computers which could help with things like encryption or nuclear weapon design. I'm not sure these embargos were ever primarily viewed as an economic weapon, though it was no doubt a useful secondary effect.

      > The question is how self-sufficient Russia is today in terms of high-tech goods and systems - can they make their own computers, servers switches, phones, etc?

      I think the bigger question is: do they actually need to be? China is at the very least an ally of convenience, and with the USA having already applied similar embargos to companies such as Huawei, there's already a lot of Chinese technology which should be generally be fit for purpose, and which the USA has little or no ability to embargo.

      Admittedly, the situation is pretty complicated, especially when it comes to how much trust Russia is willing to put into Chinese tech.

      And it'll be interesting to see what happens in the long term, as all of these embargos (and the ongoing development of open-source hardware/software) are effectively weaning the rest of the world off US-controlled technology.

      But in the short to medium term, a lot of Russians - and their entire economy - is going to be be put through a lot of hardships.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        You might be interested in this article:-

        https://www.theage.com.au/world/reagan-approved-sabotage-to-wreck-soviet-economy-20040228-gdxea0.html

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        How much would China trust Russia's ability to pay them?

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          They might not want paying in currency.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          How much would China trust Russia's ability to pay them?

          Russia has oil.

          I don't doubt that China wouldn't be averse to being paid in kind.

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      I am sure Putin will have worked hard to reduce this vulnerability the past years - so the question is how successful he has been.

      I am at least as sure that not all of the budget for reducing that vulnerability has been used that way, instead reducing the flatness of a few of his oligarch friend's wallets.

  9. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Anyone else see a problem here??

    "Between 50,000 and 70,000 Russian IT professionals have left the country..."

    "...plans to create local versions of imported technologies that Russians can no longer buy..."

    My tinfoil hat might be on a little too tight today. However, this seems like an ideal opportunity for Russia to export a few loyal software developers with the intention of infiltrating Western tech companies. Maybe re-appropriate some source code to use in creating those 'local versions'??

    Or worse... Implant back doors, logic bombs, or other such cyber vulnerabilities in to Western software.

    Western tech companies should be extremely wary of any Russian ex-pats seeking positions with access to core technologies.

    1. willyslick

      Re: Anyone else see a problem here??

      >Western tech companies should be extremely wary of any Russian ex-pats seeking positions with >access to core technologies.

      your point is well taken, but in much the same way the oligarchs prefer the European lifestyle where they have their villas, park their yachts and send their kids to private swiss schools (as seen everywhere in "Londongrad",) do we really think these Russian techie ex-pats are all (or even any of them) agents of Putin? what's in it for them? perhaps they are also happy to just enjoy a better standard of living based on their in-demand skills and also get out of Russia where from a quality of life point of view things will no doubt get harder in the years to come.

      That said, nothing more melancholy that a Russian away from the motherland....they really can't win.

      1. Marty McFly Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Anyone else see a problem here??

        "...what's in it for them? perhaps they are also happy to just enjoy a better standard of living ...

        You are absolutely correct. Quality of life is a compelling reason to leave Russia.

        Starting over somewhere else will be financially difficult. I imagine it will be a lot easier with financial assistance, like some discrete payments from their former country. A few hundred thousand dollars is a lot cheaper than millions of rubles for engineering development.

        This is not secret agent spy stuff from the Cold War with dead drops on a park bench in the middle of the night. Send privacy coins to a cryptocurrency wallet. Receive a decryption key to a publicly posted encrypted file containing the source code. All from the anonymous comfort of a coffee shop with a throw away laptop.

        We preach diversity. We forget that ethical diversity also exists, and non-Westerners may not share the same ownership standards for intellectual property. A Russian ex-pat may not see such behavior as a problem, only as a means to an end.

        A Western lifestyle along with financial stability? I would say there is a lot in it for them.

    2. Jason Hindle

      Re: Anyone else see a problem here??

      A lot of these people are employed by Western businesses. Some of those Western businesses have offered their Russian tech employees an out. At the foundational level, the maths, engineering and CS education is still strong in Russia. They create a lot of talent, and a lot of that talent would rather get fat and rich, in the West, rather than work in a kleptocracy. What we see today is merely an acceleration of what was happening already.

  10. msobkow Silver badge

    Of course, there is the minor fact that "local businesses" have no CHOICE but to buy these "new products/cracks" seeing as they're under embargo. That and the fact that Putin will have any business owners shot that don't comply...

  11. DS999 Silver badge

    How long before Putin bars the door?

    The USSR didn't let people leave at will. As Putin's Russia becomes as miserable as the USSR was, he will be forced to do the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long before Putin bars the door?

      Anecdotally (and so I am loath to believe) people are being stopped by police in Russia and being required to unlock their mobile phone for inspection for forbidden apps and use in messaging of forbidden words.

      The same rumours suggest similar activities at points of exit from Russia, possibly with a focus on those whose job is IT related.

      I understand one driver of the move to depart is to avoid the possibility of military call-up.

  12. binary
    Mushroom

    Fleeing Putin

    Who will fight suka (bitch in Russian) Putin if everyone is leaving?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone suggest Vlad employs Capita to replace their systems? They'll even give him cashback.

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