A heavily-protected Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru)

A heavily-protected Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru) 

Crimea, Opinion

Edited by: A. N.

Since the Russian occupation of Crimea began four years ago, the combination of its longtime residents being forced to leave and new people from Russia arriving means that 20 percent of the population consists of people who did not earlier live on the Ukrainian peninsula, a shift that reflects a Kremlin policy that approaches the definition of genocide.

Over the last four years, Russian government data and Ukrainian estimates show that 268,000 people have arrived in Crimean and Sevastopol while 153,600 have left, something that has boosted the ethnic Russian share of the population to 20 percent or more.

Given shortcomings in the data, all three of these numbers almost certainly understate the size of these changes, with more arriving, more departing, and more Russians in the population.

Still more troubling, the official statistics show that the number of new arrivals has remained stable while that of departures has increased in the last year alone.

Russian officials have mostly stopped talking about this development, Eurasianet reports. But Crimean and Ukrainian officials have expressed mounting concern. Yevhenia Goryunova, a Crimean political analyst, refers to the departures as a form of “’soft deportation,’” by which Moscow achieves its goals by imposing unbearable conditions on the population.

As a result, “Crimeans are ever more often becoming aliens in their own land which is rapidly being populated by Russians,” most of whom are siloviki or government employees. As a result, Goryunova suggests, the trend will continue, with ever more natives leaving, ever more Russians arriving and the population gradually falling.

“Russia doesn’t need those who ever more often recall that they lived better when the peninsula was under Ukrainian administration. It does not want to see on the peninsula those who despite harsh restrictions are nonetheless ready to take part in protests – even when these are not political but a defense of business and property,” Goryunova says.

The portion of the population that the Russian occupiers are most interested in pushing out consists of the Crimean Tatars, according to Iryna Pribytkova of the Kyiv Institute of Sociology at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. They are being “provoked” into leaving as part of Russian occupation policy.

Russia’s Kerch Bridge will only accelerate this process, she adds, allowing Moscow to introduce more military technology and personnel and thus isolate and push out the Crimean Tatars and other non-Russians.

Further Reading:

Edited by: A. N.

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