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Up to 800,000 Russians have reportedly moved to Crimea since occupation in 2014

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 9, 2023 11:15 AM 2 min read
Yalta, Crimea, on June 18, 2023. (Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images)
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Up to 800,000 Russians have moved to occupied Crimea since its illegal annexation in 2014, and around 100,000 Ukrainians have left, in what amounts to a larger Russian project of remaking the peninsula's demography, said Vladyslav Miroshnychenko, an analyst for the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) on Dec. 6.

The figure matches previous estimates made by other Ukrainian officials. Tamila Tasheva, President Volodymyr Zelensky's permanent representative for Crimea, said in July 2023 that between 500,000-800,000 Russians had illegally relocated to the peninsula since 2014.

Following the illegal annexation in 2014, Russia implemented policies designed to increase the share of Russians in Crimea, while simultaneously forcing or otherwise pressuring Ukrainians to leave.

Miroshnychenko wrote that the relocation of 800,000 Russians and the loss of 100,000 Ukrainians was not just an organic process, but rather the result of a deliberate policy by the Russian government that he argues could be considered a violation of international humanitarian law.

These policies included "preferential mortgage lending (to Russians), relocation of the Russian military, law enforcement officers, government, medical and educational workers, judges and their families, the expulsion of Ukrainians to the mainland of Ukraine, and encouraging the movement of Ukrainians to Russian territory."

Miroshnychenko noted that Russia has sought to implement a similar policy in parts of Ukraine that Russia has illegally occupied since the full-scale invasion in 2022, albeit with lesser success due to the continuing war.

This is particularly apparent in Mariupol, which was heavily bombed and shelled during Russia's almost three-month siege of the city immediately following the invasion in 2022. The National Resistance Center reported in August 2023 that Moscow had prepared a "development plan" for the city that entailed the relocation of around 300,000 Russians to Mariupol by 2035.

The city previously had a population of more than 450,000 before the invasion, but Ukrainian authorities estimated that only 100,000 remained after Russian forces captured the city.  

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