A campaign aimed at bringing home young people studying in the UK and other Western countries has been launched by an official group representing former Soviet states.
They are told that there are excellent opportunities in the far east of Siberia instead of London – but the plan has been mocked on social media.
In recent years some of Russia’s brightest students, as well as high-flying financial and technological graduates, have gravitated to major British universities and companies.
Putin tells Russian students living in UK to work in Siberia
Russians are informed by their state-run media that the Skripals were poisoned not by Moscow but an MI5 or MI6 in a conspiracy to damage the Kremlin.
Britain has been blamed, too, for the chemical attack on Syria.
Another figure behind Moscow’s “It’s time to go home” returnee scheme, Oksana Buryak, said: “The question for our youngsters studying abroad is very serious indeed.
Oleg Mansurov, of PreActum entrepreneurial community, told a Moscow conference on the plan that those with education and work experience in Britain “will be ready to take part in ambitious projects and move again, including to the Far East of Russia”.
He called for “passionate graduates” to return and help develop Russia’s backward far east.
High salaries will be offered to the best brains, he indicated.
Returnees are told it is “highly likely” they will be welcomed back: the same phrase used by Theresa May to describe the probability of the attack in Salisbury being by the Russian state.
Some student returnees may not have to endure exile as far away as Siberia.
Some going back to Russia will be fast-tracked into top universities in the capital including the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations, it is reported.
And a survey by Kommersant newspaper failed to detect any hostility to Russians in Britain.
The initiative was ridiculed on social media.
Yana Prigozhina said: “I just can’t stop laughing. People who invested so much time in the often an incredibly hard step of moving to study abroad are supposed to buy the idea of ‘building the digital economy’ in the Far East of Russia?”
Referring to a former Gulag transit point in eastern Siberia, Maria G asked sarcastically “Why don’t I just swap my PhD in Cambridge for a job in Magadan?
Timur said: “They better make sure they select real patriots for this task. What if these guys that come back turn outto be MI6? My God, what a scandal.”
Buryak added: “Relations between Russia, USA and a number of European countries – first of all, with Great Britain – lately got a lot more complicated.
‘Sanctions were introduced against our country.
“The initiative … came from Great Britain, which forced several other European countries into solidarity.“Therefore today there is a serious issues over security of young Russians who study abroad.
“There are real concerns that young people, young Russians might suffer in provocations in countries that demonstrate unfriendly attitude towards [us].”