Sunday, May 03, 2020

Seeking safety in Russia today

By Larissa Shessler
Head of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners from Ukraine

Political emigration to Russia from Ukraine began in 2014, but still more and more refugees, who can be considered political emigrants, are arriving on Russia’s territory.
Until 2014, Russia also had a significant positive migration balance with Ukraine, attracting hundreds of thousands of migrants who found work in Russia.
With the beginning of the armed coup in Ukraine in February 2014, however, the flow of migrants acquired a completely different quality.
The victors of ‘Euromaidan’, not hiding their intentions, began a large-scale political persecution, and the victims of this persecution were supporters of integration with Russia, supporters of communist ideas or simply functionaries of the previous government.
After the bloody events of 2nd May 2014 in Odessa, when dozens of Euromaidan opponents were burned alive, it became obvious that nationalist-minded Ukrainian radicals would not stop before the death of their opponents. At the same time, the SBU launched a large-scale criminal prosecution accusing the supporters of the federalisation of Ukraine of separatism.
The first wave of political emigrants represented public figures, journalists, sociologists, historians and ordinary citizens who were threatened with being imprisoned or killed by right-wing radicals.
The hostilities in the Donbas caused yet another wave of refugees – people who lost their homes or were close to the actions of the Ukrainian army. And although many refugees subsequently returned to the Donbas, hundreds of thousands of them remained in Russia, having found refuge and work here.
And the third group of political emigrants are former militias who took part in the war in the Donbas, defending the unrecognised republics.
Many of them were injured or shell-shocked. The poverty of the unrecognised Donbas republics and huge economic difficulties forced these people to seek refuge in Russia, which they consider their homeland – the land of their fathers. It was this fatherland, their language and their history, they defended in the Donbas.
Of course, migration to Russia is a very difficult process, given the bureaucratic difficulties and harsh migration legislation.
But the absence of a language barrier, moral support from ordinary Russians and gradually softening laws nevertheless contribute to the constant influx of Ukrainians and Russians from Ukraine into Russia.

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