Its director Ella Libanova said during a presentation about Ukraine’s post-war revival in Ukrinform that this is the optimistic estimate: Russia’s full-blown war is leading to excessive mortality not only by killing people with weapons but through elevated stress, overburdening, insufficient medical care, lack of proper nutrition.
The pessimistic estimate is 30 million.
Ukraine’s low birth rate contributes to the problem. In 2021, it was already at the extremely low rate of 1.1 children per woman, far below the replacement rate of 2.13-2.15. Libanova expects it to “catastrophically” fall in 2023, with 0.8 being the optimistic estimate.
Migration is yet another factor that can contribute to Ukraine’s depopulation. Whether refugees who have escaped abroad will return or not depends on the duration of hostilities and post-war conditions in Ukraine.
“The longer people stay abroad, the more they adapt and try to stay there forever. In addition, the longer the hot phase of the war lasts, the more our infrastructure – both industrial and social, especially housing – will be destroyed. If people have their homes destroyed and if they have no work, they will have nowhere and nothing to return to,” Libanova explained.
According to her institute, Ukraine’s population has shrunk since 1994 and is currently at 34-35 million people.
On 1 February, before the full-scale Russian invasion, 41.2 million people lived in Ukraine, excluding the territories that Russia was occupying — Crimea and eastern Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s Financial Ministry.
As of 8 November, over 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees were forced to leave Ukraine; nearly 4.7 million of them received temporary protection, according to UN data.
The Russian invaders’ mass deportation of Ukrainians in occupied territories and attempts to resettle Russians to them may point to Moscow’s intention to change the demographic composition of these regions.