The Kremlin has threatened returning Russian citizens who fled the country due to the war in Ukraine with exile in Russia’s far east.
Two days after Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said citizens who left Russia after Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 wouldn’t face repercussions, he walked back his comments, saying they didn’t apply to all returnees.
He made the comments during a press briefing on Wednesday, when asked by reporters to respond to Russia’s State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin’s suggestion that Russians who support Ukraine should be sent to the Magadan region, known for its Stalin-era Gulag prison camps, if they return.
Volodin was referring to those who “took a pronounced anti-Russian position and sided with the Kyiv regime,” said Peskov.
“Yes, indeed, we are not on the same path with these people,” Putin’s spokesman said.
Peskov said “the vast majority” were always welcome to return to Russia, however.
“Of course, these people always, no matter what, have their homeland—Russia. And she’s always waiting for them,” Peskov added.
The governor of Magadan, Sergei Nosov, said that the region will not accept “traitors” and “vile people.”
Nosov was quoted by state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying that the Magadan region is developing dynamically today “on instructions from the president and government” of the country.
“That’s why we need literate, educated and professional people here,” he added.
Newsweek has contacted Russia’s Foreign Ministry via email for comment.
Another member of Russia’s State Duma suggested this week that Russians living abroad should be fined remotely for “discrediting” the army and criticizing Russian authorities.
Ayrat Farrakhov of the ruling United Russia party proposed introducing the amendments to existing legislation, reported Russian publication Kommersant.
Farrakhov said that “on the territories of foreign states, various public leaders and activists are carrying out activities directed against the interests of the Russian Federation.”
Russia’s parliament passed legislation in March 2022 imposing jail terms of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” news about Russia’s army. The Kremlin has used the law to crack down on those inside the country who veer away from Putin’s narrative of the war.
At the moment, it is “impossible to apply preventive measures to relocants,” the State Duma deputy wrote.
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