Business tycoon Vladimir Potanin spoke in defense of the Russians who left the country in early 2022.

Vladimir Potanin. Photograph: Handout/ CC 4.0

Businessman Vladimir Potanin whose primary asset is the giant Norilsk Nickel came out in defense of the Russians who left the country in February 2022.

Potanin told Russia’s RBC television that he doesn’t find it a problem.

“The programmers left, and now there’s a debate about whether to let them back in. People left, they must have had some reason for that. But most of them continue to work for our country, economy and companies. Some of them will come back, some of them won’t. So why push them out and drive them away? They will get hired by other companies. It is our strength, not a weakness—their brains, the ability to produce a product,” said Potanin.

He added that Russia has only 20% of its own software, and in the new environment, it needs the intellectual potential of domestic specialists to close the gap.

“At the expense of what we will restore the damage that sanctions have done to our economy? We will restore it, first of all, at the expense of people who are able to do it, so we have to respect their beliefs, which may be somewhat disliked by more patriotically-minded people. Tolerance should be shown,” he said.

Potanin is convinced that there is no point in punishing people who work for the country’s economy from abroad or remotely.

“These guys who left, they’re contributing, they’re making their own product that we really need. I would not discriminate against them in any way, at least not for a long enough period of time.”

Russians who have left the country should be given the opportunity to “feel, understand, try,” Potanin said.

“Taking away property and branding people prematurely, I think, is a sign of weakness. And we are a strong country, a strong nation. . . . So, we have to make strong moves, not weak ones. Violating property rights is an impulsive, weak move. And punishing people for working, let’s say, from Yerevan or even for some from Germany for our economy is also an impulsive, populist move,” Potanin concluded.