Peace Time: Refugees, Exiles And POWs


October 20, 2022: The current war in Ukraine has caused a regional refugee crisis. Nearly half the population of Ukraine has been impacted by the refugee problem. While 7.5 million Ukrainians have registered as refugees outside Ukraine, even more have not been registered because they were forcibly moved to Russia or because they failed to register for a number of reasons. Most of the refugees are inside Ukraine. These are described as IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and Ukrainian IDPs are currently increasing as the Russians carry out more attacks on Ukrainian cities. The Russians are losing on the battlefield and the cheap cruise missiles they bought from Iran had proved unsuccessful on the battlefield, but worked against cities. The small warhead of these Iranian cruise missiles does little damage but it's enough to encourage more Ukrainians to leave the country or become IDPs.

Nations bordering Russia or Ukraine made an extraordinary, in terms of financial cost, effort to assist Ukraine during the first six weeks of the war. For example, tiny Estonia (population 1.3 million) spent about .8 percent of its annual GDP to support Ukraine during those six weeks. Most of the aid went to processing and hosting Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian attacks on their homes. By October the Ukrainians and their NATO supporters are planning for what comes after the war. The Russian troops are literally on the run and Russia has few options left.

For Ukraine, the post-war years will be expensive because of the need to support all the IPDs as well as returning refugees. NATO is already budgeting money for this while both NATO and Ukraine ponder what to do about the thousands of Russian POWs (Prisoners of War) Ukraine has and the millions of Ukrainians who went to Russia since 2014. Many did not go voluntarily and Russia won’t let any of them return to Ukraine. The POWs are a problem because Russia passed a law making it a criminal offense for a soldier to surrender, except in a few extraordinary circumstances. This was supposed to discourage soldiers from surrendering but didn’t. Now this law encourages soldiers to not return to Russia.

Nations receiving Ukraine refugees are also seeing a lot of Russians fleeing Russia. This was noted after the war began when Turkey estimated that 50,000 Ukrainian refugees had entered Turkey after a month of fighting. The Turks expected (correctly) that those numbers would increase dramatically as long as the war lasted. Turkey already hosts around 3.7 million refugees from the Syrian civil war. Anti-war Russians have also fled to Turkey, with at least 14,000 Russians entering Turkey during the first month of the war.

Russia has also threatened NATO members Poland, Romania and Slovakia because they border Ukraine and serve as the initial host for millions of Ukrainian refugees from the fighting as well as Russians fleeing Russia because of its economic problems and later because of efforts to conscript them to die in Ukraine.

So far this year, nearly three million Ukrainians have gone to Russia, not all of them voluntarily. Driving all Russian troops out of Ukraine won’t automatically get all the Ukrainians in Russia back. It is believed that as much as half the Ukrainians leaving for Russia this year were compelled to do so by the Russians as part of the “filtration” process to pacify civilians in Russian occupied Ukraine. These tactics are considered a war crime and unless there is a change of government in Russia, getting those “filtration” Ukrainians held in Russia back will be difficult.

Winter is coming in Ukraine and IDPs are often the least able to deal with the lack of heat. Ukrainians in general are facing months of cold weather with no way of heating their homes. Russian attacks have concentrated on destroying Ukrainian energy sources and supplies. Ukraine needs a lot of help from NATO to deal with that. Meanwhile, NATO nations also lost access to Russian oil and natural gas and have to cope with that as well as assist the Ukrainians, who are worse off. There are reduced supplies of oil and natural gas worldwide, so it’s going to be cold for everyone in Europe and Ukraine over the next few months because of that energy shortage.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close