- According to UNHCR figures, there are 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine as at the end of November 2022.
- According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russian authorities have deported more than 1.2 million Ukrainians, including 200 000 children.
- The forcible displacement of civilians during an armed conflict is a war crime under international law.
Facebook users have shared a chart showing the movement of Ukrainian refugees to other countries in Europe. Data shows that since the beginning of the military invasion more than 2.8 million Ukrainian citizens have headed to Russia. That makes the Russian Federation the country that currently has the highest number of Ukrainian refugees in its territory.
Factcheck.bg looked into the figures underlying the statistical data after receiving an alert from our reader Nikolay Lazarov.
The chart, which shows the logo of the Russian state TV channel Sputnik in the background, is accompanied by the following text: ‘Well, something is not exactly as presented to us on TV! Most Ukrainian refugees appear to have fled to the ‘aggressor’ Russia!!!???” The author of the post also reports that the data is ‘from 2 or 3 months ago, I did a little digging (and) as of now 3.3 million people have crossed from Ukraine into Russia since the war started!!!’
What does the statistical data show?
UNHCR’s data portal updates information on Ukrainian refugee admissions by country in Europe on a weekly basis. Since the start of the war, 7.8 million Ukrainians have fled their homes. Out of these, 2.8 million have settled in Russia. Out of all EU countries, Poland has taken in the greatest number of refugees (1.5 million). The Czech Republic is second with 500,000 refugees, followed by Slovakia, Moldova and Romania, which have opened their borders to 100 000 Ukrainians each. The figures are up to date as of 29 November this year.
The verification carried out by Factcheck.bg did not find reliable statistics that corroborates the allegation that there are currently 3.3 million Ukrainian refugees in Russia, as the Facebook post claims.
Voluntary movement or forced displacement?
In July, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued a detailed report containing evidence that the Russian army has forcibly deported more than 1.2 million people from Ukraine, including 200 000 children. It is also alleged that this happened with organised transport and without prior warning.
Against their will and without information about where they would be relocated, people were faced with the dilemma of either going to Russia or dying. This is what victims of the repression carried out by the Russian army have told CNN. According to the OSCE, there is also convincing evidence of the existence of ‘tens of thousands of filtration centres’ in the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. There, Ukrainians were subjected to thorough vetting before being redirected to the Russian hinterland.
Those who have passed through the centres tell stories of being fingerprinted, photographed, having their belongings searched and being questioned on their political views.
‘Those who did not ‘pass’ the filtration procedure, in most cases because of suspected links to the Ukrainian army or suspected affiliation with nationalist organisations, were arrested and detained in the DNR or have disappeared without trace…’, writes Human Rights Watch. The study interviewed 110 Ukrainians from the Mariupol and Kharkiv regions.
During a UN Security Council meeting in September, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also reported that there are reports of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Ukrainians interrogated, detained or forcibly relocated to Russia. The Kremlin immediately denied these allegations, describing them as ‘fantasy’ and the latest work of the ‘Western disinformation machine’. According to Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vasily Nabenzia, more than 3.7 million Ukrainians, including 600 000 children, are in Russia as a result of the military invasion. In his words, they have gone there ‘voluntarily’ and live a ‘life of freedom’.
According to Article 49 of the 1948 Geneva Convention, the forcible deportation of civilians during an armed conflict is a war crime.
It is true that 2.8 million Ukrainians have been in Russia since the beginning of the war, but it is not clear how many of them were forced to settle there by the Russian authorities. According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, more than 1.2 million people have been forcibly displaced as of July alone. Under international law, this constitutes a war crime.