Looks like China is looking for problems with USA

China says U.S. should change attitude or risk conflict

By Ryan Woo


BEIJING, March 7 (Reuters) – The United States should change its “distorted” attitude towards China or “conflict and confrontation” will follow, China’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while defending its stance on the war in Ukraine and defending its close ties with Russia.

The U.S. had been engaging in suppression and containment of China rather than engaging in fair, rule-based competition, Foreign Minister Qin Gang told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.

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“The United States’ perception and views of China are seriously distorted,” said Qin, a trusted aide to President Xi Jinping and until recently China’s ambassador in Washington.

“It regards China as its primary rival and the most consequential geopolitical challenge. This is like the first button in the shirt being put wrong.”

Relations between the two superpowers have been tense for years over a number of issues including Taiwan, trade and more recently the war in Ukraine but they worsened last month after the United States shot down a balloon off the U.S. East Coast that it says was a Chinese spying craft.

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The U.S. says it is establishing guardrails for relations and is not seeking conflict but Qin said what that meant in practice was that China was not supposed to respond with words or action when slandered or attacked.

“That is just impossible,” Qin told his first news conference since becoming foreign minister in late December.

Qin’s comments struck the same the tough tone of his predecessor, Wang Yi, now China’s most senior diplomat after being made director of the Foreign Affairs Commission Office at the turn of the year.

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“If the United States does not hit the brakes, and continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailment, which will become conflict and confrontation, and who will bear the catastrophic consequences?”

U.S. officials often speak of establishing guardrails in the bilateral relationship to prevent tensions from escalating into crises.

Qin likened Sino-U.S. competition to a race between two Olympic athletes.

“If one side, instead of focusing on giving one’s best, always tries to trip the other up, even to the extent that they must enter the Paralympics, then this is not fair competition,” he said.


Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at a news conference in Beijing

[1/2] Journalists attend a news conference by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Thomas Peter12

During a nearly two-hour news conference in which he answered questions submitted in advance, Qin made a robust defence of “wolf warrior diplomacy”, an assertive and often abrasive stance adopted by China’s diplomats since 2020.

“When jackals and wolves are blocking the way, and hungry wolves are attacking us, Chinese diplomats must then dance with the wolves and protect and defend our home and country,” he said.

Qin also said that an “invisible hand” was pushing for the escalation of the war in Ukraine “to serve certain geopolitical agendas”, without specifying who he was referring to.

He reiterated China’s call for dialogue to end the war.

China struck a “no limits” partnership with Russia last year, weeks before its invasion of Ukraine, and China has blamed NATO expansion for triggering the war, echoing Russia’s complaint.

China has declined to condemn the invasion and has fiercely defended its stance on Ukraine, despite Western criticism of its failure to single Russia out as the aggressor.

China has also vehemently denied U.S. accusations that it has been considering supplying Russia with weapons.


Qin said China had to advance its relations with Russia as the world becomes more turbulent and close interactions between President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, anchored the neighbours’ relations.

He did not give a definite answer when asked if Xi would visit Russia after China’s parliament session, which goes on for one more week.

Since Russia invaded its southwestern neighbour a year ago Xi has held talks several times with Putin, but not with his Ukrainian counterpart. This undermines China’s claim of neutrality in the conflict, Kyiv’s top diplomat in Beijing said last month.

Asked whether it was possible that China and Russia would abandon the U.S. dollar and euro for bilateral trade, Qin said countries should use whatever currency was efficient, safe and credible.

China has been looking to internationalise its currency, the yuan, which gained popularity in Russia last year after Western sanctions shut Russia’s banks and many of its companies out of the dollar and euro payment systems.

“Currencies should not be the trump card for unilateral sanctions, still less a disguise for bullying or coercion,” Qin said.

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian, Laurie Chen, Ryan Woo and the Beijing Newsroom; Writing by Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Tom Hogue


FBI director says COVID pandemic ‘most likely’ originated from Chinese lab

Department of Energy has also concluded COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from lab leak in China

By Adam Sabes | Fox News

Wray: COVID-19 origins most likely caused by Chinese lab ‘incident’

FBI Director Christopher Wray discusses the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic on “Special Report.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by a lab leak in Wuhan, China.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News in an interview that aired Tuesday. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.” 

“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody,” he added.

Wray said the FBI has specialists who focus on “the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID, and the concerns that they [are] in the wrong hands [of] some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal.”


FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Dec. 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Dec. 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (AP Photo / Carlos Osorio)

He also said that the Chinese government has been trying to block investigative work into the origins of the coronavirus.

Wray’s comments come after the Department of Energy has also recently assessed that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by an accidental lab leak in China.


CIA chief: China considering supplying weapons to Russia

CIA chief: China considering supplying weapons to Russia

The US intelligence service CIA is convinced that China is considering supplying weapons to Russia for the war against Ukraine. That says CIA director Bill Burns in an interview with the American TV channel CBS News.

He stressed that Beijing has not yet made a final decision. By sharing the information, the US government wants to influence China’s decision, Burns confirmed. He calls the possible arms deliveries a “very risky and ill-advised gamble” by Chinese President Xi.

US Secretary of State Blinken said last weekend that China is considering supplying weapons. He did not give details, but Blinken warned that it would have “serious consequences”. Beijing reacted strongly to Blinken’s statements and said it had no plans for arms transfers.

China sees itself as a neutral party in the war, but the West thinks otherwise. Beijing sees this as Russia’s most important ally, which, despite the Russian aggression, has still stood behind Moscow.


De Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst CIA is ervan overtuigd dat China overweegt wapens te leveren aan Rusland voor de oorlog tegen Oekraïne. Dat zegt CIA-directeur Bill Burns in een interview met de Amerikaanse tv-zender CBS News.

Hij benadrukte wel dat Peking nog geen definitief besluit heeft genomen. Door de informatie te delen wil de Amerikaanse regering de beslissing van China beïnvloeden, bevestigde Burns. Hij noemt de mogelijke wapenleveranties een “hele riskante en onverstandige gok” van de Chinese president Xi.

De Amerikaanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Blinken zei vorig weekend al dat China overweegt om wapens te leveren. Details gaf hij niet, maar Blinken waarschuwde wel dat het “ernstige gevolgen” zou hebben. Peking reageerde fel op Blinkens uitspraken en zei geen plannen te hebben voor wapenleveringen.

China ziet zichzelf als neutrale partij in de oorlog, maar het Westen denkt daar anders over. Dat ziet Peking als Ruslands belangrijkste bondgenoot, die ondanks de Russische agressie nog altijd achter Moskou is blijven staan.

CIA-directeur Bill Burns

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The Furniture Hustlers of Silicon Valley

As tech companies cut costs and move to remote work, their left-behind office furniture has become part of a booming trade.

Tenzin Norbu, who became a furniture reseller in the pandemic, has a warehouse in Richmond, Calif., for the furniture he buys from tech companies and others.
Tenzin Norbu, who became a furniture reseller in the pandemic, has a warehouse in Richmond, Calif., for the furniture he buys from tech companies and others.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times
Erin Griffith

By Erin Griffith

Erin Griffith, who covers start-ups and venture capital, plumbed Craigslist and visited a warehouse and an empty San Francisco office.

Feb. 25, 2023Updated 1:15 p.m. ET

Brandi Susewitz touched the curved stitching on a pair of bright red Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs and announced they were worth around $5,000 each. The chairs were in pristine condition, perched in the reception area of the software company Sitecore’s office in downtown San Francisco.

Trisha Murcia, Sitecore’s workplace manager, said she was likely the only person who ever sat on them. “It’s really sad,” she said. “They opened this office in 2018 and then Covid happened.”

Ms. Murcia led Ms. Susewitz around Sitecore’s office, pointing out bar stools that had never been used, 90-inch flat screens, shiny conference room tables and accent chairs from the retailer Blu Dot. The whiteboard walls, outfitted with markers and erasers, were spotless. And rows upon rows of 30-by-60-inch, height-adjustable Knoll desks with Herman Miller Aeron chairs sat collecting dust.

Ms. Susewitz measured and snapped photos, identifying designer brands and models. Her office furniture resale business, Reseat, would take all of it, she declared. “We can find a home for this,” she said. “We have time.”

Brandi Susewitz, wearing grey jeans and black tennis shoes, looks at two red chairs near a receptionist’s desk in a lobby with the Sitecore logo on the wall.
Brandi Susewitz looked at two red Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs during a visit to the Sitecore office in San Francisco last month.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times
Sitecore was reducing its office space because the pandemic meant more employees worked remotely.
Sitecore was reducing its office space because the pandemic meant more employees worked remotely.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Ms. Susewitz, who started Reseat in 2020, is one of an increasing number of behind-the-scenes specialists in the Bay Area who are carving out a piece of the great office furniture reshuffling. There are professional liquidators, Craigslist flippers and start-ups spouting buzzwords like “circular economy.” And a few guys with warehouses full of really nice chairs.

All of them are capitalizing on a wave of tech companies that are drastically shrinking their physical footprints in the wake of the pandemic-induced shift to remote work and the recent economic slowdown.

Nowhere is the furniture glut stronger than in San Francisco. Tech workers have been slowest to return to the office in the city, where commercial vacancy rates jumped to 28 percent last year, up from 4 percent in 2019, according to the real estate firm CBRE. Occupancy in San Francisco in late January was 4 percent below the average of the top 10 U.S. cities, according to the building security firm Kastle. And companies of all sizes, including PayPal, Block and Yelp, are giving up their expensive downtown headquarters or downsizing their office space.

Add to that the tech industry’s recent U-turn from optimistic hypergrowth to fear and penny pinching. That has led tech giants such as Google and Salesforce, along with smaller companies like DoorDash and Wish, to carry out widespread layoffs, cutting more than 88,000 workers in the Bay Area over the last year, according to Layoffs.fyi.

Some start-ups have abruptly gone under, including the flying car company Kittyhawk, the autonomous vehicle start-up Argo AI and the interior design start-up Modsy. Others have slashed spending, starting with their dusty, rarely used offices full of designer furniture.

Brandi Susewitz touches a black office chair in a small conference room with a pink mural on the back wall.
Ms. Susewitz checked out a chair during her visit to Sitecore. She toured the office with Trisha Murcia, Sitecore’s workplace managerCredit…Jason Henry for The New York Times
Brandi Susewitz stretches a measuring tape across a brown desk with a plant on it in an otherwise empty, sunny office space.
Ms. Susewitz measured office furniture at Sitecore’s office in downtown San Francisco.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Last month, Twitter held a public auction for some of its furniture, hawking dry erase boards, conference tables and a three-foot blue statue of its bird logo. The social media company, which is owned by Elon Musk, at one point stopped paying the rent on some of its office leases.

Layoffs in Big Tech

After a pandemic hiring spree, several tech companies are now pulling back.

  • A Growing ListAlphabetMicrosoft and Zoom are among the latest tech giants to cut jobs amid concerns about an economic slowdown.
  • Salesforce: The company said it would lay off 10 percent of its staff, a decision that seemed to go against the professed commitment of its co-founder and chief executive, Marc Benioff, to its workers.
  • New Parents Hit HardAt tech companies that spent recent years expanding paid parental leave, parents have felt the whiplash of mass layoffs in an especially visceral way.
  • Tech’s Generational Divide: The recent cuts have been eye-opening to young workers. But to older employees who experienced the dot-com bust, it has hardly been a shock.

Martin Pichinson, a founder of Sherwood Partners, an advisory firm that helps restructure failing start-ups, said he was staffing up to handle increased demand. Today’s reckoning was not as severe as that of the dot-com bust in the early 2000s when dozens of tech companies collapsed, he said, but “everyone is acting as if businesses are falling apart.”

That’s led to a lot of expendable furniture, much of it hewing to a specific youthful aesthetic of Instagrammable bright colors and midcentury modern shapes. That look, complemented by plant walls of succulents and kombucha on tap, was a hallmark of the tech talent wars over the past two decades, telegraphing a company’s success and sophistication.

Then there’s the Aeron chairs. The $1,805 black roller-wheel desk chairs are a closely-watched barometer of tech excesses. Their sleek design makes them a work of art, according to the Museum of Modern Art. And in the tech industry, where workers are used to being pampered while chained to their desks, they are ubiquitous.

When internet companies imploded in 2000, liquidators filled their warehouses with the “dot-com thrones.” Now any whiff of empty Aerons piling up conjures memories of that slump and sets off fears that another is imminent.

The Bay Area’s Craigslist currently has gobs of the chairs for sale, photographed in warehouses, lined up in corners of conference rooms and wrapped in plastic outside a storage unit. Some are selling for as cheap as a few hundred bucks.

The listings are a reminder: Silicon Valley is a place of booms and busts, with enterprising hustlers who see nothing but opportunity, even in the rubble.

Assorted rows of chairs and couches stacked on warehouse shelves.
Mr. Norbu’s furniture reselling business, called Enliven, has expanded to include a van, three employees and a warehouse.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

A trail of Dropbox furniture

For furniture specialists, it all starts with supplies from tech companies like Dropbox.

In 2019, the file storage company moved into its 735,000-square-foot headquarters in San Francisco. Its 15-year lease was the largest in the city’s history at the time. Dropbox’s old office was rented to other companies, and last year, a cache of furniture — futuristic-chic chairs, couches and tables — from that office made its way to a liquidator.

The inventory included several emerald green velvet Jean Royère-style Polar Bear chairs that cost roughly $10,000 to custom make in 2016, according to their maker, Classic Design LA.

Three of those chairs sold to Tenzin Norbu, a furniture reseller in Richmond, Calif., who paid around $1,000 for each. Mr. Norbu, 25, started buying and selling high-end furniture on online marketplaces early in the pandemic, when people were eager to redecorate the homes they were stuck inside and stymied by supply chain delays on furniture.

Since then, his business, called Enliven, has expanded to include a van, three employees, a 4,000-square-foot warehouse and annual revenue in the mid-six figures.

The tech talent wars, with companies competing to out-perk one another with the fanciest offices, were good for designer furniture. The retreat from that battle has been just as good for resellers.

Last year, Mr. Norbu scored some lounge chairs and couches from Fast, a payments start-up that collapsed in the spring. He also paid “tens of thousands” of dollars, he said, to fill a 20-foot truck of still-in-the-box furniture that WeWork, whose valuation had plummeted, had kept in storage since 2019. The trove included dining chairs, lamps, couches and a chunky red Bollo armchair by the Swedish designer Fogia.

A flush green chair, two orange and yellow chairs and a wooden coffee table on a tan and white rug.
Mr. Norbu’s inventory included three green Polar Bear chairs that were custom made for Dropbox.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times
Tenzin Norbu looks at a large book in front of a wall of shelves holding colorful pillows, with four orange and red armchairs surrounding him in his studio.
Mr. Norbu said he planned to buy furniture from more tech start-ups as his business grows.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

On a recent tour of his warehouse, Mr. Norbu pointed out a pair of never-used felt poufs from a start-up, two glass coffee tables from Delta Air Lines, some gray lounge chairs that were “probably from Google” and plants from a venture capital firm.

Mr. Norbu aims to target more tech start-ups as his business expands. The companies are always acquiring or shedding furniture, since they tend to grow quickly and shut down abruptly. Many of his buyers also work in tech, he said, which means they could find themselves eating dinner at the very conference table they once gathered around for meetings.

Last year, Mr. Norbu sold one of the Polar Bear chairs that had been owned by Dropbox to a fellow furniture flipper, Nate Morgan, for $1,400. Mr. Morgan started trading furniture in the fall after he was laid off from a business development job at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram. He said he quickly discovered the Bay Area contains “crazy pockets of massive amounts of furniture.”

Mr. Morgan’s business, Reclamation, recently worked with a wealthy tech entrepreneur who had bought a second San Francisco home to live in while his main home was being renovated. The entrepreneur furnished the 4,000-square-foot second home with new goods from Restoration Hardware. Nine months later, when the entrepreneur moved into his main home, Mr. Morgan bought all of the second home’s furniture for 10 percent of its retail price.

Mr. Morgan, 44, said the furniture business was a welcome shift from the 15 years he spent working in tech. “It feels really good to be building a local community business that’s tied to this geographic area,” he said.

Furniture sits on the sidewalk outside a large open garage door.
Outside Mr. Norbu’s 4,000-square-foot furniture warehouse.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Mr. Morgan later sold the Polar Bear chair that had been at Dropbox for a profit to an interior designer in Los Angeles, who then sold it to a client in the Hollywood Hills. From the liquidator, to Mr. Norbu, to Mr. Morgan, to the interior designer, each person in the chain made a little money.

Dropbox declined to comment. During the pandemic, the company shifted to remote work and made plans to sublet 80 percent of its headquarters. Takers have been slow; the company recently lowered its expected rate, pushed out its target for finding tenants by two years and recorded a $175 million charge on its real estate holdings in 2022.

Dropbox’s remaining space has been converted into what the company calls a “studio” instead of an “office,” designed for meetings and “touchdown spots,” or cafes and libraries for people to sit, chat and work briefly. There are no more desks.

‘It was a ghost town’

Ms. Susewitz, 49, has worked in office furniture since 1997, when she became a customer service representative at Lindsay-Ferrari, a Bay Area furniture dealer now known as One Workplace.

The furniture industry’s wastefulness always bugged her, she said, with companies discarding durable, commercial-grade items that were built to last decades every time they moved. Companies waited until the last minute to deal with the furniture, she said, increasing the odds it wound up in the trash.

In the late 1990s dot-com boom, Ms. Susewitz created a business plan to build an online marketplace for used office furniture. She abandoned it when eBay took off, thinking the company would eventually solve the problem. “But that never happened,” she said.

Over the next two decades, she worked in sales and business development, outfitting Bay Area businesses with goods from “the big five” of workplace furniture — Steelcase, MillerKnoll, Haworth, Allsteel and Teknion.

Ms. Susewitz's arm reaching in the frame in a sunny office with a table and chairs and large windows.
Before the pandemic, Sitecore was expanding its space so rapidly that it had leased another half of a floor in its office tower.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

When the pandemic hit, Ms. Susewitz’s livelihood of new office furniture screeched to a halt. She watched with disgust as companies tossed out barely used desks and chairs.

“Perfectly good, brand-new furniture is just being carted off to landfills,” she said.

So she created Reseat to help businesses liquidate furniture. The company uses an inventory management system that tracks the items’ “life cycles” so it can quickly share the specifications for the furniture, making the goods easier to sell. Given enough time, sellers can expect 20 cents on the dollar for their furniture, she said. Reseat, which has 14 employees, has worked with more than 100 companies and sold more than eight million pounds of furniture.

“Our goal is to sell it standing,” Ms. Susewitz said. “Once it ends up in a warehouse, it loses value and ends up collecting dust.”

In December, Reseat was hired to liquidate more than 900 work stations, 96 office chairs, 40 work benches, 24 sofas and 84 file cabinets at an office in Santa Clara, Calif. Analog Devices, the semiconductor company that had moved out, hardly used the space during the pandemic. But Pure Storage, the data storage company moving in, didn’t want those pieces. Reseat had just four weeks to sell the items.

“It just ate me up inside,” Ms. Susewitz said. That she found buyers in time was “a miracle,” she added.

Pure Storage said it was reusing a “substantial” amount of Analog Devices’ furniture, including desk chairs and conference room items, but it planned to install its existing desks “to better suit how Pure employees work in a more open office environment.” An Analog Devices representative declined to comment.

Ms. Susewitz was excited about the furniture at Sitecore because the company had contacted Reseat months ahead of its move, setting it up to easily find a home for its goods. At Sitecore’s office, she showed off how to identify the size of an Aeron chair. Each one has a set of plastic bumps hidden on its back. Two bumps indicate the most common size, a “B.”

There were 16 size Bs around a wooden conference table that Sitecore had built using wood from a houseboat that was in Sausalito, Calif. In the center, a basin filled with Legos was flanked by the universal emblems of the pandemic: a bottle of Purell and a package of Clorox wipes.

Red and white chairs and white tables and booths in a lunchroom with a view of office buildings through large windows.
Ms. Susewitz said she would take everything from Sitecore’s kitchen area, except for the plates and silverware.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, Sitecore was expanding its space so rapidly that it had leased another half of a floor in its office tower. But “once the pandemic hit, it was a ghost town,” said Brad Hamilton, the company’s head of real estate and facilities.

Sitecore plans to downgrade to 30 desks from 170. “We’re paying an outrageous amount of money for a floor that nobody uses,” he said.

Toward the end of the office tour, Ms. Susewitz surveyed Sitecore’s empty kitchen area, outfitted with a Ping-Pong table, a Ms. Pac-Man machine and two curved, six-foot privacy coves. Ms. Susewitz said she would take everything, except for the plates and silverware.

Chair influencers

One result of the furniture trading is a lot more people logging into Zoom meetings from very nice chairs — and not only in the Bay Area.

In January, Gilad Rom, a software engineer in Los Angeles, decided to upgrade his work station at home. He searched Craigslist and found a seller with 500 Aeron chairs — apparently acquired from a SiriusXM office that had shifted to remote work — in Culver City, Calif.

When he posted a picture of the chairs gathered in a room, their black foam arms intertwined, the reaction was explosive. Some people wanted to score their own cheap Aeron. Many more wanted to reminisce about what the empty chairs represented — corporate excess gone awry.

“I think it brought back a lot of memories,” Mr. Rom, 43, said. “Flashbacks from 2008 and 2000.”

The seller, from a furniture shop called Wannasofa, was so overwhelmed with calls after Mr. Rom’s tweet that the store gave him a 25 percent discount. “Apparently I’m a chair influencer now,” he said.

The reaction also gave him an idea.

“Maybe I should build an app that helps people find cheap luxury furniture,” he said. “Maybe there’s something there.”

New York Times

Deze Russen verruilden hun thuisland voor Amsterdam

Niet alleen Oekraïners, maar ook duizenden Russen verlieten afgelopen jaar hun thuisland. Drie van hen vertellen over hun komst naar Amsterdam. ‘Ik ben bang voor een oordeel als ik zeg dat ik Russisch ben.’Madelief van Dongen24 februari 2023, 03:00

Pjotr Safronov (41) uit Moskou: ‘Er komen steeds meer sancties en visumbeperkingen voor mensen met een Russisch paspoort.’ Beeld Nina Schollaardt
Pjotr Safronov (41) uit Moskou: ‘Er komen steeds meer sancties en visumbeperkingen voor mensen met een Russisch paspoort.’BEELD NINA SCHOLLAARDT

Precies een jaar geleden, op donderdag 24 februari 2022, toog de Russische Pjotr Safronov (41) samen met honderden landgenoten naar het Poesjkinplein in het centrum van Moskou. Het doel: opstaan tegen de Russische invasie in Oekraïne. Maar nog voordat Safronov zich goed en wel bij de menigte had gevoegd, werd hij gearresteerd. “Ik was niet verrast of afgeschrikt,” zegt hij. “Ik geloof dat politieke verandering alleen mogelijk is van binnenuit, door als Rus zelf op te staan.”

Dat werd in de maanden na de invasie steeds moeilijker. Nieuwe repressieve maatregelen maakten het verspreiden van ‘nepnieuws’ strafbaar en Safronov kreeg als academicus te maken met internationale censuur. “Ik kon geen gebruik meer maken van Zoom en andere internationale diensten, omdat we door sancties niet meer met Russische bankkaarten konden betalen. Wetenschappelijke uitwisseling werd onmogelijk.”

Na lang wikken en wegen, besloot hij te vertrekken. In juli arriveerde Safronov in Amsterdam, waar hij als gastonderzoeker aan de UvA en als fellow aan het NIAS-instituut van de KNAW ging werken.

Safronov is een van de duizenden Russen die het afgelopen jaar hun land verlieten. In totaal kwamen volgens het CBS 3796 Russische migranten naar Nederland in 2022, ten opzichte van 2984 in 2021 en 2252 in 2020. Het gaat om Russen die zich hebben ingeschreven in de Basisregistratie Personen, zoals studenten, asiel- en arbeidsmigranten. In totaal vroegen 590 Russen asiel aan in Nederland. Cijfers van het aantal Russen dat zich inschreef in Amsterdam, zijn er nog niet.

Gedwongen migrant

Activist en kunstenaar Paulina Siniatkina (33) uit Moskou besefte na de invasie al snel dat ze haar activisme tegen de oorlog niet in Rusland uit kon voeren. “Ik had geen tijd om mijn appartement op te ruimen of waardevolle spullen te pakken,” zegt ze. “Vluchten werden één voor één geannuleerd.” Via een toeristen- en studentenvisum kwam ze uiteindelijk in Amsterdam terecht – de geboortestad van haar vriend.

Activist en kunstenaar Paulina Siniatkina (33) uit Moskou: ‘Ik hou van mijn land, maar sinds de oorlog voelt het alsof de lucht er vergiftigd is.’ Beeld Nina Schollaardt
Activist en kunstenaar Paulina Siniatkina (33) uit Moskou: ‘Ik hou van mijn land, maar sinds de oorlog voelt het alsof de lucht er vergiftigd is.’BEELD NINA SCHOLLAARDT

“Ik hou van mijn land, maar sinds de oorlog voelt het alsof de lucht er vergiftigd is,” zegt ze. “Het is niet meer de plek waar ik thuishoor.” In Amsterdam deed Siniatkina de eerste vijf maanden vrijwilligerswerk: ze ving Oekraïense vluchtelingen op bij CS. “Ik móest iets doen, had een vernietigend schuldgevoel. Daarin ging ik voorbij aan mijn eigen emoties. Ik wil niet klagen, want mijn huis wordt niet gebombardeerd. Maar ik ben en blijf een gedwongen migrant.”

Een 40-jarige vrouw uit Moskou, die om veiligheidsredenen liever anoniem wil blijven, herkent dat gevoel. “Officieel was het mijn eigen keuze om te vertrekken,” zegt ze. “Maar die keuze is sterk beïnvloed door de oorlog.” De Moskouse werkte voor een internationale organisatie toen de invasie begon. Ze kon haar werk op internationaal niveau niet meer voortzetten en raakte in een isolement. “Hoewel mijn leven niet werd bedreigd, raakte ik gedeprimeerd. Ik voelde me gevangen in mijn eigen land.”

Angst en onzekerheid

Uiteindelijk wist ze met succes te solliciteren naar een baan in Amsterdam. In juli verhuisde ze. “Ik werd verwelkomd door Amsterdammers en expats,” zegt ze. “Maar zelf ben ik in de war en voel ik me alleen. Sinds de oorlog weet ik niet meer wat goed en slecht is. Ben ik medeplichtig of een landverrader?”

De Russische zegt verscheurd te zijn tussen verdriet voor Oekraïne aan de ene kant, en angst voor bommen en kernwapens aan de andere. “Maar ik ben niet iemand die de barricades opgaat, ik ben geen held. Daar voel ik me ook schuldig over.”

Veel Russen worstelen met hun psychische gesteldheid sinds de oorlog. Het antidepressivagebruik in Rusland groeide sinds begin 2022 met bijna 50 procent en maar liefst 70 procent meer mensen bezocht een psycholoog of psychiater. Het gaat bijvoorbeeld om gevoelens van schuld en schaamte. Dat geldt niet alleen voor tegenstanders van de oorlog, blijkt uit onderzoek van het Publieke Sociologie Laboratorium. Ook angst en onzekerheid maken dat de psychische gesteldheid van veel Russen achteruit holt.

De Nederlands-Russische Kristina Petrasova van Free Russia NL herkent het gevoel van schuld en medeplichtigheid onder de Russische gemeenschap in Nederland deels. “De Russische samenleving is niet getraind om voor zichzelf te denken en eigen keuzes te maken,” zegt ze. “Mensen hebben dat lang niet doorgehad, maar die bewustwording komt nu op gang. Ze worden aangespoord om persoonlijke verantwoordelijkheid te nemen. Dat is best ingewikkeld.”


De houding van Amsterdammers tegenover hun komst, ervaren de Russische Amsterdammers als overwegend positief. Ook Petrasova geeft aan dat Nederlanders over het algemeen niet vijandig zijn tegenover Russen. Toch merkt Siniatkina dat haar Russische identiteit gevoelig ligt. “Ik kan nooit meer enkel zeggen dat ik Russisch ben,” vertelt ze. “Ik ben bang voor andermans oordeel. Het is voortaan altijd: ik ben Russisch, maar tégen de oorlog.”

Bovendien, zegt Petrasova, is de Nederlandse houding ten opzichte van Russische vluchtelingen en migranten ingewikkeld. “Er is veel onduidelijkheid over Russen die status nodig hebben, maar niet meer terug kunnen.” Een groot deel van de Russen die asiel hebben aangevraagd, kan worden teruggestuurd. Er geldt alleen een uitzetstop voor dienstplichtige Russen.

De EU en de Nederlandse regering moeten veel genuanceerder omgaan met Russische en Belarussische paspoorthouders, vindt ook Safronov. “Er komen steeds meer sancties en visumbeperkingen. Terwijl achter een Russisch paspoort veel andere politieke, etnische en seksuele identiteiten zitten. Ook veel mensen die zich júist afzetten tegen het regime van Poetin of Loekasjenko.”

Of hij terug kan, is onzeker. Dat geldt ook voor Siniatkina: ze wíl wel, maar ze ziet het niet snel gebeuren. “Deze ervaring heeft me doen inzien hoeveel ik van mijn thuisland hou,” zegt ze. “Het is mijn droom om terug te keren naar een vrij en democratisch Rusland. Maar of en wanneer, dat weet ik niet.”


Before The Mets, Steve Cohen Was The Hedge-Fund King

Inside the government’s crackdown on insider trading, drawing on exclusively-obtained video of hedge fund titan Steven A. Cohen, incriminating FBI wiretaps, and interviews with both Wall Street and Justice Department insiders. (Aired 2014) This journalism is made possible by viewers like you. Support your local PBS station here: http://www.pbs.org/donate​. In November 2013, hedge fund giant SAC Capital agreed to plead guilty to what prosecutors called “insider trading that was substantial, pervasive, and on a scale without precedent in the history of hedge funds.” “To Catch a Trader” goes inside the suspenseful and compelling story of this unprecedented government investigation, as correspondent Martin Smith traces how an insatiable search for trading “edge” ultimately doomed some of the most successful names on Wall Street.

How Did Our Ancestors Learn To Map The World?

How does mankind find its way around the planet? How do people know where roads lead and what lies on the far side of the ocean? Did Marco Polo have an atlas showing the way to China? Did the Romans mark the borders of their empire on maps? For thousands of years distant lands and foreign nations were mysteries. And yet accounts of these mysteries were available – in travel books and on maps of the world.