Russians flee Putin regime to join Ukraine refugees in Israel

REHOVOT, Israel – The moment Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, Russian film- Anna Shishova-Bogolyubova and Dmitry Bogolyubov knew they had to leave Moscow.

“We were the next on the list,” the couple told AFP in their borrowed flat in Rehovot, a quiet Israeli city 20km south of Tel Aviv.

Once you’re on the list of alleged “foreign agents”, you face a life of “self-censorship or, sooner or later, prison”, said Mr Bogolyubov, who directed the German-financed 2019 documentary Town Of Glory.

The film portrays President Vladimir Putin’s use of references related to the fight against Nazi Germany to establish his authority in Russian villages.

As its international isolation has deepened, Moscow has come to view all movies made with foreign with suspicion, including documentaries, and the couple said theirs was no exception.

“Over the past few years, we felt threatened. In the past few months in particular, people were spying on us and taking photographs on our film sets,” Ms Shishova-Bogolyubova said.

The couple decided to continue working in Russia but, taking advantage of their Jewish ancestry, they obtained Israeli citizenship just in case.

Israel’s Law of Return gives the right of citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, a criterion that tens of thousands in both Russia and Ukraine meet.

Opposition to war

Since Russian troops invaded on Feb 24, nearly 24,000 Ukrainians have fled to Israel, some but not all taking advantage of the law, according to Immigration Ministry figures.

They have been joined by around 10,000 Russians, an Israeli immigration official told AFP.

“Most of those are young graduates, from the urban middle-class,” the official said, asking not to be identified.

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