As the invasion of Ukraine continues into yet another bloody day of fighting, Russia is struggling with a battle much closer to home: brain drain. That’s the phenomenon that occurs when academics, scientists, doctors, and other educated people leave a region en masse.

Russia has been dealing with brain drain for years now. However, with severe economic sanctions and draconian restrictions on free speech imposed on the country following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s been contending with a massive new spike of people trying to leave.

So it should come as no surprise then that Dmitiry Rogozin, the erratic head of the country’s space program Roscosmos, has allegedly forbidden agency employees from being able to travel abroad. 

The order itself was spotted by Kamil Galeev, a Moscow-based journalist and Galina Starovoitova Fellow on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at the Wilson Center. On Wednesday, he tweeted an alleged picture of the order, which was dated February 28, 2022 — mere days after the initial invasion of Ukraine. 

He later added that border guards in Russia are instructed to stop IT and computer engineers specialists from leaving the country.

Ars Technica space editor Eric Berger echoed Galeev’s sentiment that Rogozin “prohibited Roscosmos employees from traveling abroad, even to Russia’s allies.”

The move would be absolutely in line with what we’ve seen from Rogozin so far during the conflict. Since the invasion began in late February, he’s taken to Twitter to post a seemingly endless stream of pro-Putin and anti-US propaganda. He’s even feuded with NASA figures such as astronaut Scott Kelly.

So his alleged directive attempting to keep Roscosmos employees in Russia really is no surprise. But while it might work in the short term, it certainly doesn’t bode well for the country’s future. 

“In the long run, brain drain might be the most important problem for Russia,” when it comes to its economic future, Nikolai Roussanov, an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Insider. He later added that the brain drain would “accelerate, especially as foreign academic institutions break off their relationships with Russian ones.”

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