Russian Space Agency Employees are now Forbidden to Travel Outside Russia (Because They Might not Come Back)

As Russia wages its terrible war against its neighbour Ukraine, the deteriorating situation inside Russia is leading many Russians to flee the collapsing economy. According to Russian journalist Kamil Galeev, Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin is prohibiting Roscosmos employees from leaving the increasingly isolated nation.

IT workers are among those fleeing, according to Russian journalist Kamil Galeev. Their technological skills are in demand around the world. But they’re also in demand in Russia, and Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin is preventing them from leaving Russia.

This is all part of a growing brain drain problem in Russia as sanctions cripple the economy and as prospects dwindle. According to Galeev, Russian border guards have been instructed to prevent any IT workers from leaving the embattled country.

A modern nation can’t function properly without IT people. Neither the economy, nor the military, nor Roscosmos can be effective without them. It’s easy to see why Russia doesn’t want them to leave.

But they are leaving in large numbers according to Galeev.

According to the BBC, more than 25,000 Russians have left the country just for Georgia. Many more than that have fled to other countries, though there’s no official count. One Russian-educated economist says 200,000 Russians have fled Russia, and that might be a low number. Right now there’s no way of knowing what level or type of education these people have, although it seems likely that they all disagree with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“All somewhat smart people in the country understand how terrifying the perspectives are. People are leaving en masse wherever they can. The most popular destination of emigration is Tbilisi, all the flights are booked. So people fly to Yerevan, Baku instead, just to get out,” Galeev said in one Tweet.

Only the future will tell us what effect this will have on Russia. For Roscosmos, it might be crippling. Is there anything more technologically intensive than space travel?

No one knows how the war will end and what the terrible aftermath will look like. But the way it’s going, Roscosmos could be in rough shape along with other parts of the technological economy. Roscosmos earns income from its rocket-launching capabilities, and if the brain drain gets bad enough, that income will be in jeopardy.

Roscosmos is part of Russia’s and Putin’s prestige, too. And for leaders with no democratic legitimacy, prestige and appearances are important. Each rocket launch bolsters Putin’s status.

Nobody knows what Putin will do next. He’s inscrutable. But preventing Roscosmos employees and IT workers from leaving the country signals desperation.

And a desperate Putin is not a good thing.