The Ukrainian regions of Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson have been largely occupied by Russian forces since the invasion began last February, after a pseudo-referendum classified as illegal by various international bodies. , is in the process of being annexed by Russia. Residents of these regions may now experience a situation similar to that which occurred in Crimea in 2014, but there are marked differences from an ethnic perspective and from the current war.
“They are our citizens forever.” This is how Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded the signing moment. Treaty of annexation of the four provinces of occupied Ukraine After the invasion: Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporizhia.
Meanwhile, Ukrainians and most of the world have declared that they will not recognize this accession nor the quasi-referendum that precedes it, and Moscow has threatened to use all kinds of weapons, including nuclear weapons, to defend these new territories. ing.However What will happen to the residents of those areas?
Annexation of Crimea: Precedents for Russia and Ukraine
“For me, it is not borders or territories that matter, but the destinies of the people.” These are the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin. After Crimea (former Ukrainian territory) was annexed by Russia in 2014 .
But now the Kremlin has again forcibly changed Ukrainian borders, illegally annexing parts of the Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, in violation of international law.
The exact number of people affected is unknown at this time, but it’s in the millions anyway. And the situation varies from region to region.
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young people, left for Russia or parts of Ukraine controlled by Kyiv after the events of 2014. The only ones left were the elderly, those who couldn’t leave or who supported separatism.
Some residents supported the illegal annexation out of fear that they would face justice if Ukraine regained control of the place, said a native of the region and editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Ostrow, who is also a member of the Tri-Country. Serhij Harmash, who was also a member of the Liaison Group, estimates that for the implementation of the Minsk Accords.
Also, parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions of southern Ukraine experienced minor changes during the six months of occupation. Hundreds of thousands have fled, but among those left are many who continue to support Kyiv.
This is demonstrated by the Ukrainian flag protests in the first weeks and months after Russia’s invasion.
What will happen to the residents of the annexed areas?
Unlike Crimea, where two-thirds of the population was Russian in 2014, Russians make up less than half of the population in eastern and southern Ukraine. According to the 2001 census, in 2014 Donetsk and Lugansk had approximately 40% Russians, while Zaporizhia and Kherson had approximately 25% and 15% ethnic Russians.
At first glance, life in the illegally annexed area, which has been under de facto Russian control for half a year, has hardly changed.
But everything that concerns Ukraine – laws, currency, language, education – will be gradually replaced. One of his central goals is the Russification of regions that the Kremlin historically considers to be its own.
People have to choose between accepting change or risking their lives to resist it. “These are difficult decisions. This is because there are reports of repression, arrest and torture of Kyiv supporters.
Will there be immigration after Russia annexes Ukrainian territory?
In this sense, Serhij Harmash said he did not believe that there would be a large-scale movement of partisans like what happened on Ukrainian soil during World War II. Being a partisan during World War II is two different things.Today we have video and telephone surveillance,” he says.
On the other hand, international observers do not expect there to be large-scale movements of the Russian population, as happened in Crimea. The reason is that the battle continues.
“The former residents of Donetsk will not return from Russia, where they are used as laborers, because there is no labor in Donbass.
“For Russia, the attractiveness of these regions will be low. Russians will be afraid they will have to leave again.