Tag Archives: refugees

Where are Ukrainian refugees going? – an update

How Unrest in Ukraine Is Sending a Wave of Refugees to Russia

A temporary tent camp set up for Ukrainian refugees in Donetsk, in Russia’s Rostov region near the Russian-Ukrainian border, June 22, 2014 (Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko). Source: How Unrest in Ukraine Is Sending a Wave of Refugees to Russia

In August I discussed Ukrainian refugee data in my post You can’t understand Ukraine without acknowledging its deep divisions and how this illustrates the deep divisions in the country. Unless these divisions are acknowledged and all the data considered one simply cannot understand the problems.

Ignoring the refugees from the Donbass and eastern Ukraine, who mainly fled to the Russian Federation, distorts the situation. Unfortunately, our media often falls into that trap.

Also, ignoring the refugees from those areas who fled between 2014 (when the civil war broke out) and February 24 2022 (the date used by the UN for the start of the refugee problem) misrepresents the situation. Our media persists with this fundamental mistake that the Ukrainian conflict started on February 24 thi\us purposely misrepresenting the Russo-Ukraine war.

Here I update the UN figures for refugees. The data is mainly for November 2002, although there is some variation (e.g. the data for the Russian Federation is for October 2022). I have also corrected my mistake of not including the refugees in the period 2014 and February 24, 2022.

The tables below for the refugees since February 2014 are taken from the UN – Ukraine Refugee Situation. However, the pie charts below are more complete as I have included an estimate of the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to the Russian Federation in the period between 2014 and 2022. This estimate is 1.5 million. I don’t know if this includes the estimated 120,000 who fled to the Russian Federation in the period just before the 24th of February 2024. This was caused by an increase in Ukrainian attacks on civilian areas just before the invasion.

Ukrainian refugees since 2014

This pie chart shows a fact our media ignores – Russia is bearing the main costs of supporting Ukrainian refugees – 48% of the refugees fled to the Russian Federation. This is understandable if one thinks about it. The war is taking place mainly in the east and south of Ukraine. This is where homes are being destroyed and lives are under threat. The people here are mainly Russian, ethnically. They have close ties with Russia including family ties. It is natural that most of the refugees from these areas will flee to Russia

Ukrainian refugees since February 24, 2022

Even considering the data only for those fleeing since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war in February 2022 we see that Russia is still bearing the major brunt of the refugee problem. Russia has received 38% of these refugees – more than any other country.

There are problems in Western Europe because refugees are not always welcome. But this is unlikely to be the case in the Russian Federation because the refugees speak the same language and have the same cultural and religious background. Family ties are also common.

But the Russian Federation is obviously bearing most of the economic costs of the Ukrainian refugee problem. Russia also has the cost of restoration of housing and facilities destroyed by the war in the areas they have liberated and annexed.

Some of the new housing being built in Mariupol where most houses were destroyed during the early weeks of the war.

UN data for refugees in Europe since February 24, 2022

Fake news about Ukrainian refugees

The main misrepresentation is that Ukrainian refugees are fleeing mainly to rich western countries and that Western Europe is bearing the main burden. This is obviously not true but is a common theme in western media. (For example, Number of refugees entering Europe grows as power is cut in Ukrainian towns, or Ukrainian refugees: Challenges in a welcoming Europe which lists the “top ten countries hosting Ukrainian refugees” but purposely excludes Russia).

The other common distortion is to claim that refugees hosted by Russia were forcefully deported (eg –Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians forced to Russia, U.S. claims). This is ridiculous but is one of the more fanciful claims disseminated by the authorities in Kiev which are often uncritically picked up by the western media.

*NOTE

It is hard to find complete figures for the refugees fleeing the country between 2014 and 2022 so I have used the commonly accepted estimate. I will update this post when I get my hands on the relevant data from reliable sources. So far, the UN data I have found has been for only individual years.

The refugee numbers are increasing all the time. The recent evacuation of Kherson will mean an increase in the number of refugees in the Russian Federation. The current attacks on services like water and electricity throughout Ukraine will increase the number of refugees fleeing to Western Europe. This parallels the situation in Donbass where such attacks on essential services since 2014 (as well as the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas) has caused many refugees to flee to the Russian Federation.

Most recently the authorities in Kiev have claimed that the entire population of Ukraine will have to move to other countries in winter because of the Russian destruction of electricity and water services. This claim is extreme and obviously aimed at involving NATO forces directly in the conflict by threatening Europe with the problem of increasing refugee numbers. There is no doubt that the destruction of essential services will lead to more emigration.

There are also rumours of the outbreak of civil unrest in Odessa as civilians oppose the poor response of the city administration to the loss of civilian services. It is possible such civil unrest will spread and this may also promote emigration and an increase in refugee numbers.

Finally, we should never forget the large number of refugees that have been settled within the country who must be supported by Ukrainian institutions and international humanitarian agencies.

You can’t understand Ukraine without acknowledging its deep divisions

Our media insists on telling us that Ukraine is a unified country suffering aggression from its neighbour the Russian Federation. But it is hardly unified. A violent civil war has raged there since the overthrow of the democratically elected government in February 2014.

This civil war arose from deep divisions within Ukrainian society. These divisions and their political effects are one of the reasons for the current war.

Richard Sakwa, in his book Frontline Ukraine, describes these divisions as between “the monist Ukrainian nationalist aspirations of creating culturally uniform Ukrainian-speaking nation, by contrast with the pluralist concept of Ukraine as culturally and linguistically diverse.” With the rise of ultranationalism after independence this was manifest in conflict between ultranationalist political forces and those recognising the fact of cultural diversity in the country and the need for friendly relations with their ethnically similar neighbour, Russia. In the end a conflict between the ultranationalists and the ethnic Russians living in the east.

So, it is no surprise that many people in eastern Ukraine may prefer living in an area administered by Russia. They may be interested in travelling from Ukrainian administered parts of the country into Russian administered parts of the country, even moving there, as indicated in the video above.

But these facts contrast with stories we usually get from our mainstream media.

UN refugee data

The refugee data also conflicts with the mainstream media narrative.

Far from seeing the Russian Federation as a brutal enemy, many Ukrainians that flee the country as refugees go to Russia. In fact, the UN data shows that the country hoisting the largest number of Ukrainian refugees who fled the country since February this year is the Russian Federation. With almost two million refugees, Russia is hosting a much larger number than Poland which has the next highest number of about one and a quarter million.

See the data below which was taken from the Ukraine Refugee Situation on the UN Operational Data Portal.

Beware of simple stories

Understandably, simple stories are promoted in a war situation, and they may well appeal to many people. Understandably and many people “pick sides” and have a desire to confirm their bias.

But simple stories rarely convey the truth of a situation. And in the case of Ukraine one simply cannot understand the conflict of one does not recognize the divisions in that country. In fact, ignoring those divisions means one easily falls into the trap of believing the propaganda from the preferred side and inevitably aligning with that side – no matter how unjustified their position is.

Humanitarian intervention – but when & how?

Causes

People are demanding politicians do something about the current refugee crisis. They are demanding humanitarian intervention, a change in the normal rules and so that refugees can be settled safely.

Politicians are dragging their feet – which is inhumane, considering the gravity of the situation. But I do have sympathy for the view, expressed by some politicians, that this sort of action does not solve the basic problem. I especially sympathise with those politicians who are starting to acknowledge that this crisis is a logical result of drastic mistakes they  made in the past.

Refugees are justifiably fleeing from horrible situations in their own countries – situations actually caused, or made worse, by the actions of the USA and NATO. The invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya and the support for anti-government forces in Syria, created chaotic regimes and devastating wars  – and hence the refugee crisis.

Military intervention justified as “humanitarian”

The problem is that these invasions and bombings were, themselves, justified as humanitarian interventions. The George W. Bush government launched the invasion of Iraq with the admitted aim of regime change – the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Similarly, the USA and NAQTO justified their bombing of Libya by the aim of removing Gaddafi. And even now the USA refuses to take part in an anti-Islamic State coalition including Syria – because they wish to get rid of the elected Syrian leader Assad.

The USA and NATO countries justify these aims by claiming they are humanitarian. They want to remove dictators who have repressed their people. They want to deliver democracy to the people in those countries.

Well, you can tell when a politician is lying – their mouths are moving. And that is the case here. NATO and the USA intervened in these countries for their own geopolitical interests – and for oil – not democracy. How hypocritical are people like UK Prime Minister Cameron who welcomed the victory of rebels in Libya (and the violent lynching of the Libyan leader) by declaring how wonderful it was that the Libyan people now have democracy – and then being absolutely silent about the suffering of the Libyan people as their country descending into the ruin of violent factionalism

David N. Gibbs reveals the hypocrisy of such US and NATO “humanitarian intervention” in his book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. His book is a detailed description of the history of intervention in Yugoslavia and its consequent break-up. But the lessons are wider. “Humanitarian” military intervention became a way of justifying NATO. After the collapse of the USSR and dissolution of the Warsaw military alliance, NATO was searching for a justification for its own existence – instead of logically following the Warsaw Pact example. The USA wanted NATO as an instrument of their new-found power as the sole remaining superpower. NATO became a way of asserting US power in their competition with the European Union which was starting to exert independence, and of providing a legitimacy to is intervention in foreign countries. NATO provided an umbrella when the UN Security Council wouldn’t.

USA avoids chickens coming home to roost

Ironically, this US leadership has disappeared when the chickens are coming home to roost. Europe now has to deal with a refugee crisis largely caused by US intervention in Middle Eastern countries. Effectively Europe is now having to bear the fruits of their lack of opposition to US intervention, and, in the case of several European countries, involvement as active parties in that intervention.

People do have to intervene to demand that politicians deal humanely with the current refugee crisis. But let’s not forget its causes. We also have to demand that military intervention of the sort we have seen in recent years has to stop. The people of these targeted countries must be left to sort out their own political problems in their own culturally and historically appropriate and realistic ways.

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Reality of war for civilians

The civil war in Ukraine is almost forgotten by our news media but it is only getting worse. Poroshenko’s announcement that the US is to supply lethal weapons to the Kiev government means things are going to get much worse before they get better.

But this is what it is like for civilians being evacuated by Donetsk forces from the current battle area near Debaltseve.

[eng subs] Uglegorsk residents evacuated by the militias from the town destroyed by UAF “Grads”.

As one of the refugees demands – Poroshenko should negotiate. A political solution is necessary and it is the only way to end this war. It is what the suffering civilians need.

Update

For balance here is some footage on the evacuations from the side of the Kiev troops.

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