A woman rides a bicycle past a part of the Kremlin wall
File photo: A woman rides a bicycle past a part of the Kremlin wall where the Russian national flag is projected, in Moscow. Image Credit: REUTERS

Moscow is studying what extra incentives it needs to offer highly skilled Russian expatriates to persuade them to return home, the Industry and Trade Ministry said on Monday.

Russia has a reputation for producing world-class engineers and other technical specialists, but has for years been trying to counter an exodus of its brightest scientists.

Moreover, Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine, which began on February 24, has prompted thousands of Russians who oppose the conflict and want to avoid seeing their living standards slip under Western sanctions to leave the country.

Alexander Sergeyev, president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke last week of a large brain drain under Western sanctions - imposed in 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and significantly toughened since February.

Russia has had a repatriation programme for skilled workers since 2007.

"The further development of this programme and additional benefits to attract highly qualified Russian specialists from different spheres is being discussed," the ministry said, without elaborating on what the benefits might be.

The current programme includes compensation for the cost of moving, six months of unemployment benefits and other financial incentives, the ministry said.

Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin newspaper, cited sources close to the government as saying that specialists were showing interest in returning to Russia because they faced pressure in Western countries over Moscow's intervention in Ukraine.

Russia has sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what it calls a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour's military capabilities and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw.