Latest on Ukraine | Updates from the CDA Institute’s Ukraine Correspondents
The following essays are part of a series of publications by our colleagues Myroslova Zabotnova and Marharyta Miahka who join the CDA Institute team from exile in Germany. The two are lecturers at the National Guard Military Academy of Ukraine in Kharkiv. We are honoured to have them with us and thankful for their willingness to share these difficult stories. From the deepest of our hearts, we wish them a prompt return to normalcy and a reunion with their loved ones.
1/3 | Ukrainian “refugees” – who are they?
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine, many have used the term “refugee” to describe Ukrainians who have temporarily left their country and fled to safety. It is important to note however, that Ukrainians do not label themselves as “refugees”, but rather consider themselves as “temporarily removed citizens”. At least 80 percent of Ukrainians who have left the country are determined to return home to their normal lives the first chance they get. Many of the temporarily removed citizens of Ukraine do not search for financial handouts in other countries, but persevere through dedication and hard work in hopes to get back the life they used to have.
According to the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, Ukrainians have crossed the border more than 10 million times since the 24th of February. Interestingly however, the quantity of people who left Ukraine searching for temporary shelter totals about 4.8 million people. Even with violent battlefields close to their homes, recent statistics reveal that the number of those seeking temporary shelter remains stagnant. The number of the Ukrainians who have left the country is proportionate to the number of Ukrainians who are returning to their motherland.
Countries in the European Union, as well as the those beyond its borders (Japan, the UK, the USA, Canada etc.) have offered their help by providing the temporarily removed citizens of Ukraine with the basic necessities of life and other additional support. However, pro-Russian countries, including the countries who are for “peace with the Russian Federation” such as Belarus, Turkey, Moldova, China, Bulgaria and Hungary only accept Ukrainian “refugees” as mere tourists, without providing any meaningful aid.
The majority of people from Ukraine have chosen Germany as their temporary place to reside. This is because the country provides the temporarily removed citizens with a stable place to live (including a resident permit for up to two years), learning opportunities and strong financial support. Germany offers integrated courses for individuals to learn the German language, while also ensuring the temporarily removed citizens have time to work. Despite little personal affiliations, some German families choose to share their houses with Ukrainians, showing strong support by the German people.
Still, every country has its own rules and laws which differ from those in Ukraine. In 2020, Ukraine implemented the platform “Diia”, which digitalized nearly half of all the governmental documents in the country. Although helpful, it remains difficult for the temporarily removed citizens of Ukraine to complete the copious amounts of paperwork needed in the countries of temporary residence.
Another critical issue that Ukrainians face in European countries is the difficult task of finding qualified work. Despite being experts in their fields with a high proficiency in the English Language, teachers, lecturers, scientists, doctors, etc., many remain unable to find positions in their field.
In spite of these hardships, the temporarily removed citizens of Ukraine are very grateful to the countries that have, and continue to provide them with assistance during these very difficult times.
2/3 | The Russian Army is going to Continue its Path of Occupation
It has been almost 6 months of Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine and at least 10% of Ukraine is currently occupied by the Russian Army. This has been the largest occupation by the Russian Army since the annexation of Crimea.
According to the information provided by the Ukrainian government, as of July 27th, 2022, 321 communities are temporarily occupied and considered “territories of combat activities”. Among them there are nine regions (oblasts) – Donetsk (66 communities are occupied), Kharkiv (56 communities), Dnipropetrovsk (7 communities), Luhansk (37 communities), Zaporozhzhia (55 communities), Kherson (49 communities), Mykolaiv (25 communities), Sumy (21 communities), and Chernihivska (5 communities). Additionally, Crimea has been illegally occupied since 2014 and must not be not considered an exception.
Unfortunately, Ukraine has not seen much improvement on the battlefield; however, the Russian Army’s situation remains the same – they have not been able to advance further into Ukraine as they had originally hoped.
Although there has not been any significant progress by the Russian Army, the Russian Federation continues to increase the quantity of military personnel in the Eastern and Southern regions. This can signify Russia’s plan to possibly conduct an offensive attack in hopes to occupy more territories. This would include larger cities which have managed to maintain their borders since the initial days of the Ukrainian-Russian war (such as Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia). Despite these looming threats, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as the National Guard of Ukraine continue their heroic and powerful resistance against the occupiers.
The Russian Federation has made their agenda quite evident; to fully occupy the territory Kharkiv, as well as all surrounding regions. This would be an extremely critical and strategic move for Russia area as Kharkiv and the surrounding territories border the Azov Sea and the Black Sea.
An increase in the quantity of the Russian military personnel in these areas of occupied Ukraine will give the Russian Federation the capacity to achieve their strategic aim – to cut Ukraine off from its trading Sea path. This will be catastrophic, not only to Ukraine, but to the entire international community as it will impede on the transportation of essential goods, specifically, Ukrainian grain.
The Russian Federation and Ukraine have recently signed a deal brokered by Turkey; who acted as the intermediator in issues concerning grain exportation. Nevertheless, even before the first Ukrainian cargo ship was sent for export, the Russian Army had violated the agreement by bombing near Odessa in close proximity to the port where a ship with corn was located. There was some light at the end of the tunnel when on the next day the ship with corn was successfully able to leave the port.
Though the grain deal was essential to mitigating a food crises it remains impossible to calculate the amount of grain and other commodities such as fruits and berries, which are usually exported to the EU, that are being illegally transported to the Russian Federation.
3/3 | Crimea is Ukraine
The Crimean Peninsula was an autonomous Republic within the borders of Ukraine until March 2014, when Russia illegally invaded and annexed the territory. Following the annexation, the Russian Federation conducted an illegal referendum on the 16th of March to ensure complete control over Crimea. The results of the referendum were not supported by Ukraine, nor by the rest of the developed world. Russia has been and continues to be strongly condemned by Ukraine and the international community for its illegal annexation of Crimea.
The Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity marked a turning point in early 2014. Having detected political weakness and instability in Ukraine, the Russian Federation brought its military personnel, otherwise known as “little green men” to Crimea and introduced the policy, “Crimea is Ours” (Russian).The vast majority of media in the Crimean Peninsula has been rooted in the Russian Federation. As a result, this made the so called “Russian Peace” propaganda spread as fast as wildfire.
Prior to this illegal occupation, Crimea was primarily populated by Ukrainians alongside Crimean Tatars minorities, and some ethnic Russians. Howeover, since March 2014, the Russians began to buy and illegally occupy the territory, through housing and building their own infrastructure in Crimea. This led to a drastic increase in the Russian population.
Soon, all schools became Russified, including those which had Crimean Tatar schoolchildren. Media outlets became further corrupt as they were put under absolute censorship. This was to make certain that the citizens of Crimea had no way to express their true opinions and to ensure a time of “no opposition”. This meant that citizens were unable to oppose the new authorities – the Russian government. In spite of this illegal occupation, Crimea remained a popular spot for tourists, however, the essential difference to note was that the vast majority of tourists now came from Russia. Consequently, the number of the Ukrainian tourists sharply declined. With no desire to stay in the annexed Crimean peinsula, about half of Crimean citizens moved to Ukrainian controlled territories.
Though the Ukrainian government had frequently stressed its desire to deoccupy Crimea, there had been little change with the situation, even with Russia’s full-scaled war against Ukraine. Initially, Russian tourists and the citizens of the Crimean Peninsula were not frightened despite the bombing and shelling of Ukraine by the Russian army from its positions located in Crimea. However, everything changed on the 9th of August 2022. Bright colours filled the sky as the Ukrainian Armed Forces bombed the Air Base in Saky and destroyed at least 9 jets of the Russian Army. The authorities of the Russian Federation and illegal government of occupied Crimea did not acknowledge the attack, deeming it an “accidental ignition” at the depots. Disinformation by the Russian Federation is evident as many videos of witnesses prove the Ukrainian bombing of Crimea’s air base. As a result, within the first two days of bombings and shellings, thousands of people have fled from Crimea to find safety.
Another deoccupying attack in Crimea took place in Dzankoi, at the military depots on the 16th of August. This time the Russian media sources have called the attack a “sabotage”. Insiders have informed that the very next day on the 17th of August, government officials in illegally occupied Crimea had quickly fled the Peninsula in fear of their lives. The Ukrainian citizens believe that this marks the beginning of Crimea’s long overdue return to Ukraine.