Demographic and migration crises are some of the major challenges caused by the full-scale invasion. In fact, the Kremlin has sent Ukraine's human capital situation into a steep dive. However, demographic problems are not new for our country, they have been challenging us for a long time now.  The 1990s optimistic advertising slogan of “We are 52 million” has never been true to fact. Today, it looks like from a different reality.

We hardly account for millions of Ukrainians who left abroad. Neither do we consider the GDP decline rate it triggered. On the contrary, sometimes we tend to rejoice a little when driving on traffic-free roads, rather than waiting in congestions. However, it is much more complicated when it comes to military topics, such as mobilization. After all, the question of how many people we could mobilize if Putin replenishes his army with two more million Russians is far from philosophical deliberations.

The full-scale invasion made about 5 million Ukrainians to seek refuge abroad. Although most of them claim they plan to return, the main criterion for this decision – security – has not been ensured yet. In addition, according to official data, more than 4.5 million people in our country have the status of internally displaced persons.

That is why the Civil Network OPORA, in cooperation with the International Center for Ukrainian Victory and the telecommunications company Vodafone Ukraine, conducted a large-scale study of migration due to Russian shelling in October 2022 — January 2023. The data published in the report prove that the strategic goal of the Russian Federation is to depopulate Ukrainian territories to counter resistance. 

In this piece, we will focus on the internal displacement of Ukrainians. The conclusions will be rather disappointing, since they prove the enemy's colossal influence on stimulating relocation to other regions of Ukraine. Therefore, the enemy's tactics of destroying hundreds of cities and villages turned out to be quite successful.

One of the main weapons of Russian terror was the strikes from the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Many regions (Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv) stay in the impact zone of those air defense systems able to launch low-precision strikes against ground targets. 

In October 2022, russians shelled Zaporizhzhia with particular brutality. According to the head of the regional military administration, Oleksandr Starukh, in less than two weeks, from September 30 to October 12, more than 70 civilians were killed by Russian strikes in the city. The bloodiest attacks took place on September 30 – 32 people killed, October 6 – 17 fatalities, October 9 – 19 fatalities, October 10 – 8 fatalities. 

If we compare these tragic events with the data on departures from Zaporizhzhia and Zaporizhzhia area, we can state that almost a quarter of all departures lasting 5 or more days during the study period (4 months) took place in only one (!) week – from October 6 to October 12, 2022. That is almost 60,000 trips.


Another example is the Nikopol area, where a major part of communities suffer from regular unpunished Russian shelling coming from the temporarily occupied Energodar. In the first place, it is Nikopol, Manganets, as well as the Chervonohryhorika and Myrove communities, located on the shore of the former Kakhovka reservoir and in the artillery impact zone. Back in the summer of 2022, officials reported a mass departure from Nikopol. In mid-November 2022, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council said that 70% of the city's residents did not sleep at home: "People leave for the night, and during the day they return and work."

Our research confirms the extremely negative dynamics of departures from the region in the period October 2022 – January 2023. In particular, the Nikopol district has the largest negative migration balance of -52% in the entire Dnipropetrovsk region. It shows that the difference between long-term departures and arrivals was more than 19,000 trips. Even by some most modest estimates, it is at least 7-8% of the district's population.

The internal migration intensified not only due to the missile and drone strikes themselves, but also by their consequences, such as blackouts. For example, November 30, 2022 was a day with a record-high number of departures from Cherkasy region. More than 7,500 trips were recorded on that day, not accounting for the internal trips within the region: it shows a threefold increase compared to the previous day. Residents of the region went to Kirovohrad Oblast, Kyiv Oblast, and Kyiv city. It may have been caused by problems with electricity supply because as of the morning of November 30, more than  300,000 consumers were cut off power supply in the region and "red" outage schedules were introduced  – alternately 4 hours without electricity and only 2 hours with electricity supply.

The "most attractive" destinations were Transcarpathian, Lviv, Volyn and Chernivtsi Oblasts. Most likely, this is due to their remoteness from the zone of active hostilities and location in external border areas  – potentially they could be perceived as a transitional place of residence in case of increased shelling and deterioration of the situation in the energy sector.

It must be mentioned here that the estimates did not take into account the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kherson Oblasts. Today, like in 2022, active hostilities continue there and, therefore, the military are actively moving, which can distort the data on the migration of the civilian population.