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Ukrainians turning Russian

August 21, 2014, 16:00 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Alexander Ryumin

MOSCOW, August 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia within days will ease the procedure of granting citizenship to refugees from the war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions of neighboring Ukraine. The new rules will take effect in September, the deputy speaker of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament), Yevgeny Bushmin, said on Wednesday. The Russian authorities look very eager to meet the needs of those who have fled the areas of hostilities. They do not hesitate to promptly change legislation and provide funds for their accommodation at new places of residence. Volunteers and ordinary people also hurry to extend help to forced migrants from Ukraine. Many let refugees stay at their homes for months.

Refugees from eastern Ukraine have become a reality of Russia’s everyday routine. TV news programs show daily reports narrating the details of their ordeal and what their life in Russia today is like. Their problems are being actively discussed on the Internet. Aid collection campaigns are on across the country. Even those who have problems with observing the law have hurried to take advantage of the general public’s sympathetic attitude. Professional beggars, normally in the habit of asking for money to pay for the costly medical treatment of “a dying son” or for pet food, these days appear in the disguise of refugees from Luhansk. Robbers persuade Russians to open the doors of their homes on the pretext of collecting aid for Ukrainian refugees.

How many citizens of Ukraine have crossed into Russia over the months of the conflict is anyone’s guess, as not everyone registered at migration offices. According to the Federal Migration Service (FMS), over 730,000 refugees have arrived in Russia since the conflict flared up. The Civic Chamber suspects there are more than one million of them.

Many refugees wish to stay in Russia for the rest of their lives, the FMS chief, Konstantin Romodanovsky said several days ago, adding he was relying on 7,000 questionnaires (one per family). According to the findings, as many as 66% of Ukrainian refugees wish to stay in Russia for more than one year, and 50% plan to settle in the country for good.

According to the Federal Migration Service, 38,000 Ukrainian refugees have been granted temporary asylum over the past few months; 81,000 have been granted residence permits; and 123,000 have applied for Russian citizenship.

Refugees find help in their efforts to find housing and jobs across the country. They are allowed to obtain Russian citizenship under a fast-tracked procedure, within a three-month deadline. For the refugees who would like to formalize their stay in Russia, it is enough to file an application with a Federal Migration Office merely stating they fled Ukraine due to hostilities.

The Russian government is providing huge funds to extend assistance to refugees and to help them start a new life. Nearly 5 billion rubles have been disbursed for the purpose over the past three months. This week, the program for assistance to the voluntary resettlement of Russians from other countries, effective since 2006, was increased by 20%. Under this arrangement alone, a total of 11,300 Ukrainians are to move to 37 regions of Russia this year.

“The refugees are welcome in Russia by and large, although inter-departmental coordination sometimes fails,” the daily Novyie Izvestia quotes the chief of the migration policies commission of the Russian presidential council for human rights, Yevgeny Bobrov, as saying.

Some experts say the authorities are not only eager to provide help, but also pursue certain interests.

“The government sees the civil war in Ukraine and the migration flows it has caused as a chance to change the demographic situation in Russia,” the RBC Daily quotes historian Maxim Artemiev as saying. “The likely benefits are pretty clear. Instead of migrants from Asia or the Caucasus, Russia is getting hundreds of thousands of Slav migrants sharing the language and cultural background with the locals. Their level of professional training and education is higher than that of their counterparts from Central Asia."


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