Jewish citizens of Russia are fleeing to Israel at a record pace amid concerns for their safety and the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and ongoing support for separatists in Ukraine has alarmed Jews in the country, where any dissenters to Vladimir Putin’s regime are repressed.
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According to Israeli authorities, as many as 4,685 Russian citizens relocated to Israel in 2014—more than double than in any of the previous 16 years.
And the trend seems to be accelerating.
The nongovernmental Jewish Agency for Israel has released figures showing a 40-percent surge in immigration to the country between January and March of this year, compared to the same period in 2014.
One Russian immigrant to Israel, Mikhail Kaluzhsky, lost his job at the Sakharov human rights group after it was targeted under the Kremlin’s "foreign agent" law:
The controversial law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012, forces NGOs that receive foreign funding and are deemed to carry out political activities to register as "foreign agents."
"The center's financial situation deteriorated as soon as talk about foreign agents started in Russia," says Kaluzhsky. "Western foundations said they could no longer fund initiatives that may be shut down tomorrow."
Recent drone footage from eastern Ukraine appeared to show a large military buildup at a Russian base, raising concerns that the Kremlin-backed separatists could soon launch another offensive against Ukrainian forces.