About 730,000 have left Ukraine for Russia this year: UNHCR

GENEVA Tue Aug 5, 2014 10:44am EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - About 730,000 Ukrainians have left the country for Russia this year, the European head of the United Nations agency for refugees said on Tuesday, citing data compiled by Russia.

The figure, which the UNHCR said it had assessed as reliable, excluded people who would normally have crossed the border for trade or tourism purposes, the agency's European director Vincent Cochetel told a news briefing.

"The 730,000, it's the 'plus' compared to other years," he said. "...Sometimes they just walk across the border, they come with plastic bags. Many of them are really destitute."

The figure suggests this year's exodus from Ukraine is bigger than previously thought.

A further 117,000 were displaced inside Ukraine, a number that was growing by about 1,200 per day, he said.

The UNHCR did not break down its headline figure by ethnic group, though Cochetel said a "wind of panic" was driving civilians away as the Ukrainian army closes in on major eastern cities held by separatist forces.

Much of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine has since April been a battleground between government troops and pro-Russian separatists, many of whom are ethnic Russians.

Ukrainian forces say they have been making steady gains and have virtually encircled the separatists' second-largest stronghold of Luhansk while rebels have declared a state of siege in Donetsk, the largest city they hold.

Russia's Migration Service recently said it had this year received applications from around 160,000 Ukrainian citizens. The UNHCR's Cochetel said the 730,000 figure included those who had asked Russia for protection.

The Donetsk and Luhansk regions - the easternmost in Ukraine - had a combined population of some 6.5 million people at the start of this year, according to official data.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by John Stonestreet)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
Taras_Ilkiv wrote:
I am citing official UNHCR web site: “A larger number of Ukrainians are arriving and staying in Russia under the visa-free regime. The Russian authorities estimate that around 730,000 Ukrainians, including the 168,000 seen by the Federal Migration Service, have arrived since the beginning of the year under this programme”

RTR, c’mon, change the headline, it is a mistake

Aug 05, 2014 12:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SixthRomeo wrote:
The departures meaning Russia has no claim to Crimea or to any part of Ukraine and has no right to arm “separatists” who have no legitimate claims.

Aug 05, 2014 2:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
CanRus wrote:
Lazy reporting by Reuters, simply re-posting an article without checking facts. Shame on you! This isn’t what the UNHCR reported at all. I don’t know who reported this first, but they’re guilty of sloppy journalism at best – intentional misinformation at worst.

The 730,000 number is an estimate by the Kremlin (therefore highly questionable) of the total number of Ukrainians who entered Russia since the beginning of the year for all reasons combined – immigration, work, refugees, visiting relatives, tourists, etc. Russia’s Federal Migration Service claims 168,677 Ukrainians officially entered Russia during that period, with no clear number on how many of them are refugees – likely in the 50,000 to 100,000 range. The UNHCR itself only reports that approximately 117,000 refugees are currently displaced within Ukraine, including those from Crimea.

Here’s the link to the original UN article:
http://www.unhcr.org/53e0b3a59.html

Aug 05, 2014 2:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.