Sunday, August 10, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Refugees from Eastern Ukraine Getting Mixed Receptions in Russia

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 10 – Refugees from the areas of fighting in eastern Ukraine are facing ever more problems once they arrive in the Russian Federation, with the most desirable Russian destinations showing little interest in bearing the cost of resettling them and the non-Russian regions Moscow wants to place them concerned about the influx of ethnic Russians.


                And those attitudes,’s Olga Pereslegina says, both reflect and are compounded by what some Russian Federation residents see as the desire of the refugees to live in Russia “as if they were at a resort” rather than take the perhaps less-desirable jobs that are available (


            Another source of irritation, at least among Russian nationalists, is that Moscow has allocated more than twice as much money for handling ethnic Russian refugees from Ukraine than it has authorized for the entire compatriots program, even as the center has cut back on paying the regions for what it costs them to handle the influx (


            Leokadiya Drobizheva of the Moscow Institute of Sociology says that “the first wave of sympathy and willingness to help [the refugees coming from Ukraine to Russia] stopped after the recognition that this involved not hundred but thousands of people and mostly women with children” (


            Russian officials need to “mobilize” people to be helpful, she continues, “but those who are coming, including the refugees will have to understand that the possibilities of the receiving side whatever the level of sympathy to them are not unlimited.”


            Of course, it is still the case many ordinary Russians are volunteering to help the refugees, but an increasing number of Russian Federation residents are put off by the attitudes of the Russians from Ukraine, by the costs of resettling them, and by their impact on the demography of their regions. That is especially true in the North Caucasus.


            In Kalmykia, refugees from Ukraine are unhappy with local conditions and declaring that they should have been allowed to settle in Moscow or St. Petersburg.  But in Stavropol kray, many local Russians are delighted with the new arrivals because they “increase the share of ethnic Russians” in the population.


            And in Circassian areas, despite the welcome the heads of republics have offered the Russians from Ukraine, many members of the local nationalities are furious that the authorities are welcoming ethnic Russians from Ukraine but not Circassians from Syria where conditions on the ground are even worse than in the Donbas.


            Moscow is imposing tighter controls on the refugee flow. The Federal Migration Service has announced that it will no longer offer refugee status to citizens of Ukraine who seek to live in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Rostov oblasts, Chechnya and Russian-occupied Crimea (


            Instead, the FMS is seeking to direct the flow of refugees to Kaluga Oblast, Chukotka, Sakha, Magadan, Kamchatka, and Tyumen, all but the first of which are very far from Ukraine and thus less attractive to ethnic Russians from that there. 


            Russian officials are gearing up to handle even more refugees from the Donbas, especially as now seems likely if the pro-Moscow self-proclaimed regimes in Donetsk and Luhansk collapse, with the health and education ministries making plans to handle more medical needs and provide more places in Russian schools for the influx.



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