Numbers and Evidence of Forcible Deportation of Ukrainians to Russia in the Russo-Ukrainian War

With the onset of the full-scale war against Ukraine, Russia began the forced deportation of Ukrainians from occupied territories to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. Such actions, constituting crimes against humanity, war crimes, and bearing signs of genocide, were premeditated by the Russian leadership. The forced deportation of Ukrainians was not a hasty decision but a component of a deliberate policy. Many factors, discussed later in the article, indicate that the removal of Ukrainians from their homes and their subsequent relocation against their will by Russian troops was a planned operation. Unfortunately, this operation functioned with the precision of a Swiss clock and has had disturbing consequences for Ukraine and its citizens. This article will explore the process of forcibly deporting Ukrainians to Russia and clarify the discrepancies in the numbers of deportees reported in open sources.

A week before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on February 18, 2022, Leonid Pasichnyk, the leader of the separatist quasi-state LPR, ordered the creation of “evacuation trains” from the occupied Luhansk region territories to Russia [5]. The following day, he announced the “evacuation” of citizens, i.e., Ukrainians living in the temporarily occupied Luhansk region. On February 19, over 13.5 thousand people were transported to Russia [6], presumably to the city of Gukovo in the Rostov region [7]. Regarding the separatist quasi-state DPR (Donetsk region territory), no official orders to deport civilians were found. However, according to Russian data, as of February 21, 2022, over 60 thousand people had been transferred to the Russian Federation from both LPR and DPR [8]. This indicates that these Russia-affiliated separatist states began the eviction of Ukrainians from territories occupied since 2014 on the eve of the full-scale war. February 19, 2022, marks the beginning of mass forcible deportations of Ukrainians to Russia.


Photo of an “evacuation train” from Luhansk to Gukovo (Russia)


Later, as Russians occupied additional territories in Ukraine, they conducted a series of deportations. Many people from the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Kharkiv, Sumy, and Kyiv regions attempted to feel the Russian forces. Some were successful, others not. The Russian military obstructed evacuation routs to areas controlled by Ukraine, often shelling them. By limiting access to evacuation provided by the Ukrainian government for citizens of the temporarily occupied territories, Russian troops left civilians without no other choice but to evacuate to Russia [1]. Russians compelled Ukrainians to board trains and buses heading to various regions of the Russian Federation, promising “safety”. However, this “safety” is dubious, as people were involuntarily taken to an unfamiliar country, often without money, documents, or even phones, and placed in temporary accommodation centres. The abduction and eviction of people, followed by their relocation, constitute forcible deportation. This is precisely what the Russian government intended for Ukrainians, a plan executed by Russian troops during a year of the full-scale war.

The first information about deported Ukrainians came from Ukrainian authorities a month after the war began. On March 26, 2022, Iryna Vereshchuk, the Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, announced an estimated 40,000 Ukrainians had been forcibly deported by Russia[4]. These figures only represent those abducted from territories occupied by Russian troops in March.

To house deportees from Ukraine, Russian authorities established so-called TACs — “temporary accommodation centres” — in regions both bordering with Ukraine and throughout the Russian Federation. In reality, these centers are camps where Ukrainian citizens are takenand  held. They can only leave if they prove they have relatives or friends who can host them. As survivors reveal, this is often the easiest way to escape from Russia. Otherwise, all deported Ukrainians must stay in these centres, where they are usually persuaded to sign documents for Russian residence, as their Ukrainian documents are confiscated at the border. Deportees are photographed and frequently monitored by the police.

The Russian Orthodox Church has been implicated in the forcible deportation of Ukrainians. In February and March 2022, the ROC’s Department of Charity and Social Service directed the establishment of TACs at monasteries, charitable institutions, and church orphanages, disguising it as helping “orthodox brotherly people escaping the special military operation in Ukraine.” The department’s official website details a church assistance headquarters for “refugees” in Moscow, where over 29,000 individuals were registered between March and December 2022 [9]. Additionally, Russian Orthodox Church officials often visit deported Ukrainians in various TACs. For instance, on February 28, 2022, Metropolitan Mercury of Rostov toured the Romashka sports and recreation complex in the Neklinovsky district of the Rostov region, where 500 Ukrainian children from two boarding schools and a social rehabilitation centre in Donetsk region were reportedly staying[10].

As of October 24, 2022, Russian authorities had established 807 TACs in 58 regions, detaining people from Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions. Russian data indicates that these centers house 40,680 people, including 12,470 children [11].

Metropolitan Mercury of Rostov at a meeting with deported children in the TAC [10].

Deported Ukrainians who escape TACs often seek assisstance from volunteer organizations or other means to leave Russia via borders with Baltic States. However, the Russians severely restrict exit from the country [1]. An article in Deutsche Welle recounted the ordeal of a Ukrainian woman who waited six days at the Kunichina Gora border to reach Estonia. She and 600-800 other Ukrainians, predominantly men, endured nights outdoors and long lines in constant rain and cool weather, with only five people allowed to cross the border in 24 hours[2]. The deliberate delay by Russian guards was observed at both Russian-Latvian and Russian-Estonian borders [3].


Regarding the total number of deported Ukrainians, there is a lack of consensus among sources. The British publication Independent reports at least 100,000 deported Ukrainians, allegedly on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, being sent to the most remote parts of Russia, including Siberia and the Arctic Circle [12]. The Brookings Institution estimates that 2.85 million Ukrainian deportees are in Russia [13]. According to the UNHCR, as of October 3, 2022, there were 2.852 million Ukrainian citizens in the Russian Federation, and an additional 15,932 Ukrainian citizens in the Republic of Belarus [14].

On October 3, 2022, Russian sources released figures indicating 4.5 million Ukrainian deportees (referred to as “refugees” or “evacuated people”) in the Russian Federation, including 685,000 children [15].

A January 16, 2023, report by the Ukraine 5 AM Coalition states that the number of Ukrainians deported to Russia ranges from 2.8 to 4.7 million, with children numbering between 260,000 to 700,000 [16]. The Children of War website, based on open sources from the Russian Federation, reports that 738,000 children have been deported. The platform has identified 16,221 children deported from temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories between February 24, 2022 and February 22, 2023 [17].


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Amnesty International reports that “Russia has taken numerous steps, such as simplifying the process of obtaining Russian citizenship to facilitate the adoption of Ukrainian orphans and children without parental care. These measures strongly suggest an organized effort to absorb some members of these groups into Russian society. Such actions indicate the deliberate Russian policy of deporting civilians, including children, from Ukraine to Russia. Deported Ukrainians are often coerced into signing documents alleging they witnessed war crimes by Ukrainian forces.”

According to various sources, The Russian Federation has deported at least 2.8 million people, and possibly up to 4.7 million since the onset of full-scale aggression on February 24. These actions aim to destroy the Ukrainian identity to subjugate it to Russian control and to address Russia’s demographic challenges by abducting children. 

These processes must be halted by all possible means.


Illustrative photo. Source:kyivpost [18].

People deported from Mariupol to Vladivostok, photo by Russian media. Source: Ukrainska Pravda [19].

Vladyslav Havrylov, author

Oleksii Havryliuk & Maksym Sushchuk, editors

Sources & References:

  1. Аналітичний звіт. Депортація громадян України з території ведення активних бойових дій чи з тимчасово окупованої території України на територію Російської Федерації та Республіки Білорусь. URL:https://zmina.ua/en/publication-en/deportation-of-ukrainian-citizens-from-the-territory-of-active-military-operations-or-from-the-temporarily-occupied-territory-of-ukraine-to-the-territory-of-the-russian-federation-and-the-republic-of/
  2. Украинским беженцам трудно попасть из РФ в Эстонию. Почему? URL:https://www.dw.com/ru/casy-na-granice-i-otkazy-vo-vezde-pocemu-ukraincam-trudno-popast-iz-rf-v-estoniu/a-63432397
  3. URL:https://www.ukrinform.ru/rubric-society/3587165-vyezd-ukraincev-iz-rossii-cerez-strany-baltii-nahoditsa-na-osobom-kontrole-mid.html 
  4. Ірина Верещук: кількість насильно вивезених українців зараз може становити 40 тисяч – боремося за їх повернення. URL:https://minre.gov.ua/news/iryna-vereshchuk-kilkist-nasylno-vyvezenyh-ukrayinciv-zaraz-mozhe-stanovyty-40-tysyach
  5. Глава ЛНР из-за обострения ситуации призвал жителей Республики выехать на территорию РФ.  URL:https://lug-info.com/news/glava-lnr-iz-za-obostreniya-situacii-prizval-zhitelej-respubliki-vyehat-na-territoriyu-rf-16451931745109
  6. ЛНР планирует повторные отправки ж/д состава для эвакуации населения в РФ – Правительство. URL:https://lug-info.com/news/lnr-planiruet-povtornye-otpravki-zh-d-sostava-dlya-evakuacii-naseleniya-v-rf-pravitel-stvo
  7. Минтранс обнародовал график движения поезда с эвакуируемыми жителями ЛНР URL:https://lug-info.com/news/mintrans-obnarodoval-grafik-dvizheniya-poezda-s-evakuiruemymi-zhitelyami-lnr
  8. Эвакуация из ЛНР и ДНР в Россию. Главное.  URL: https://www.rbc.ru/politics/20/02/2022/620fd6d99a7947a9ec85178c
  9. В московском церковном штабе помощи беженцев приняли 29 тысяч обращений с марта. URL:https://www.diaconia.ru/v-moskovskom-cerkovnom-shtabe-pomoshhi-be zhencev-prinyali-29000-obrashhenij-bezhencev-s-marta
  10. Митрополит Ростовский Меркурий встретился с детьми, эвакуированными с территории Донбасса URL:https://www.diaconia.ru/mitropolit-rostovskij-merkurij-vstretilsya-s-detmi-evakuirovannymi-s-territorii-donbassa
  11. Число ПВР для беженцев в России достигло 807 URL:https://ria.ru/20221024/bezhentsy-1826256366.html
  12. Putin ‘resettling Ukrainians 5,500 miles away in Siberia and far east Russia’, report claims URL:https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-ukraine-resettling-siberia-putin-b2056054.html
  13. Ukrainian refugees: Challenges in a welcoming Europe URL:https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2022/10/14/ukrainian-refugees-challenges-in-a-welcoming-europe/
  14. Operational data portal. Ukrainian refugee situationURL: https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine
  15. «Свыше 4,5 млн. беженцев прибыли в Россию с территории Украины и Донбасса с февраля». URL: https://tass.ru/obschestvo/15936967 
  16. Від 2,8 до 4,7 млн українців є потенційними жертвами депортації, з них від 260 до 700 тис. діти, але точні цифри невідомі. URL:https://mipl.org.ua/vid-28-do-47-mln-ukrayincziv-ye-potenczijnymy-zhertvamy-deportacziyi-z-nyh-vid-260-do-700-tys-dity-ale-tochni-czyfry-nevidomi/
  17. Діти війни 24 лютого 2022-22 лютого 2023. URL:https://childrenofwar.gov.ua/ 
  18. США закликають Росію звільнити депортованих українців. URL: https://www.kyivpost.com/uk/post/4390
  19. США виявили 18 російських “фільтраційних таборів” для українців. URL: https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2022/07/9/7357137/