cut off from family and savings russians in asia count the cost of war - Cut off from family and savings, Russians in Asia count the cost of war

DENPASAR – When he arrived in Bali nearly two weeks ago, after four days of quarantine in Jakarta, Mr Viktor learnt that his adopted country of Russia had invaded his country of birth, Ukraine.

The distress didn’t stop there.

The 32-year-old, who declined to give his family name owing to worries that they would face reprisals, said he was cut off from his bank account in Russia, and his credit cards no longer worked. Any rouble-denominated savings he could get his hands on had lost nearly 45 per cent of its value against the US dollar.

“It’s like a disaster,” he told The Straits Times recently on Berawa beach in Bali’s Canggu district, popular with expats. “Russians are now paying double because their income is in roubles.”

It is a nightmare playing out across South-east Asia. Global efforts to isolate Russia’s government have cut off Russian travellers from their money, while also limiting their capacity to return home as airlines cancel flights.

Tourism officials in Thailand said in the past week that as many as 3,000 Russians in the resort island of Phuket cannot get flights back to big Russian cities like Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as the Siberian cities of Irkutsk and Novosibirsk.

Some 5,000 Russian nationals are currently staying in Bali, according to government data. Many are eager to distance themselves from the war.

“People are suffering… The majority of (Russian) people do not support this,” said Ms Dasha Vanokovi, 23, who was with her partner Alex Matreshkin, 30, on Batu Bolong beach.

“This is quite difficult for us to be here, seeing what has just happened but we can’t do anything.”

Mr Artsiom Shylau from Belarus is also feeling the heat.

Belarus, a close Russian ally, said it was sending five battalion tactical groups to its border with Ukraine but had no plans to send troops in to join Russian forces fighting there.

Mr Shylau, 29, has met fellow travellers and Indonesians who accuse him of not doing enough to oppose the regime of long-serving president Alexander Lukashenko.

Frustrated, Mr Shylau said he joined street protests in 2020 after Mr Lukashenko’s re-election which was widely condemned as rigged.