Like you, I don’t live in Catalunya, but I’m inclined to believe the quote from Aksana below – he/she would have no motive in distorting things in talking to a UK newspaper:
Aksana Niamkovich, the editor of Tot en Rus, a Russian-language monthly with a circulation of 10,000 in Catalonia, said this is a new phenomenon. “This is the Russian middle class who have chosen Catalonia as either their first or second residence,” she said. “There are 2,000 Russians (including people from the former Soviet republics) registered as residents in Barcelona and 4,000 in the Costa Brava resort of Lloret de Mar. They are attracted by the climate and the fact that Barcelona is nearby and by the sea. Barcelona is also very cosmopolitan and Russians are very interested in the culture of poetry and painting here. It also cheaper to emigrate here than to England, France or Germany and easier to adapt. They could go to Italy but it’s too chaotic.”
Not sure why you’re so keen to deny this is happening. If tourist figures go up, then you will find the numbers trying to settle there will go up too.
I admit it’s hard to work out how they get the residency permission – I’m still bemused at how many Chinese seem to get in. I suppose money talks.