Today, millions of Ukrainian people stay out of country because of the full-scale Russian aggression. The numbers keep growing. According to the Ukrainian border guard service, every month, about 40,000 Ukrainian citizens are leaving with no return. According to the UN, the numbers are even higher: over 200,000.

Although different institutions offer different estimates, it is clear that the demographic and migration situation in Ukraine is hugely complex. The return of many Ukrainians will require significant effort from Ukraine and partner states to create favourable security, humanitarian, and economic conditions. 

Clearly, the hope is that in September the situation might change for the better, also due to the “school season” but we need comprehensive solutions today.

In this blog, OPORA summarized the estimates of the demographic situation in Ukraine from different institutions.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In response to the enquiry from the Civil Network OPORA, the MFA informed that as of early September, 2023, about 7.4 mln Ukrainian citizens were staying out of country. Compared to the data of June, 21, 2023, or, over 2 months, the numbers have dropped by almost 800,000 persons.

The top three host countries with highest numbers of Ukrainian people are Germany (14.6%), Poland (13%), and USA (12%). Also, many Ukrainian citizens found their shelter in Canada (5.4%),  Czech Republic (5%), UK (2.8%), and Spain (2.5%). In their estimates of Ukrainian people in European states, the MFA relies on the data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Please, note: the MFA does not claim that all of the 7.4 mln Ukrainians relocated abroad because of the Russia’s full-scale invasion.

State Border Guard Service

One of the key sources to estimate the number of Ukrainian people displacing out of country is the border crossing data from the State Border Guard Service.

As of August, 1, 2023, the SBG documented 22.9 mln exits from Ukraine and 20.1 mln entries. The difference is 2.813 mln persons. Over the past three months, the negative migration balance has grown by 126,000 border crossings, or by ab. 40,000 a month.

However, the increase is insignificant compared to the truly massive exodus in December 2022 – March 2023. Over those 4 months alone, the negative balance has grown by 1.8 mln people. The causes to such an outflow of population might be the blackouts and Russian massive missile strikes in November, 2022 – January, 2023.

As of August, 1, 2023, Ukrainians were most actively crossing the border with Poland – almost 25 mln of outbound and inbound trips. It is higher than the number of border crossings with all other countries bordering with Ukraine. According to the MFA, Poland and the adjacent Germany host the highest numbers of Ukrainian people.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

As of the end of August, 2023, the UNHCR informed about a slightly more than 5 mln Ukrainian refugees (excluding the data provided by Russia and Belarus). However, the border crossings balance implies that this number might be higher. 

Thus, according to the data from the UNHCR portal, from February, 24, 2022, to September, 3, 2023, 24.2 mln exits from Ukraine were recorded, and 17.3 mln entries. Accordingly, it may be estimated that since last February, 24, ab. 6.9 mln people left Ukraine and never returned. 

Let’s consider that since mid-October, the number has been growing. And the negative migration balance from August, 1, 2022, to August, 1, 2023 (in a year’s time) has grown by over 2.5 mln people. The data is well illustrated on the chart.

Massive Strikes

In September, 2022, Russia started to massively shell critical and civilian infrastructure of Ukraine. The Kremlin used terrorist methods to de facto  pose an ultimatum coming out of the mouth of Putin’s press secretary Dmitriy Peskov: “Ukraine’s leadership has all the possibilities to take the situation [with the strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities] into the normal track; they have all the possibilities to settle the situation to make sure the demands of the Russian side are met, and, consequently, they can stop all the suffering of local population.”

To satisfy their terrorist whims, since August, 2022, Russia has fired at Ukraine over 1,600 missiles of different types, and over 1,650 drones Shahed 131/136. On the chart, we showed the strikes.

The two charts do not even require the complex math to clearly illustrate that the longer the Russian strikes last, or, generally, the longer the full-scale Russian invasion, the more Ukrainian people are leaving abroad and never return. Not surprisingly, since according to OPORA survey, for 43% of refugees, the most important factor to return to Ukraine is the security in their region of origin.

At the same time, the leaving pace of Ukrainians is slowing down. According to the UN, almost 63% of people left Ukraine in the first six months of the full-scale invasion. The improvement of the migration situation can be explained by Ukraine’s growing military capacity, such as the air defense. After all, according to the ex-Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, the air defense is the No 1 priority request for Western partners.

The efficiency of air defense might have an impact on another possible million-size migration of Ukrainians out of country in the coming fall and winter.

You can read more about the number of Ukrainians staying out of country in this post.

Andriy Savchuk