Yuriy Vyshnevskyy
Demography of ORDLO
(separate districts of Donetsk
and Luhansk regions)
Official data
Assessing the population of the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, official statistical data should first be provided
When in 2014 Russia occupied the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine informed the UNSD (United Nations Statistics Division) about it being impossible to provide statistical data on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (in particular, the data about the population) as the result of annexation of those Ukrainian territories by the Russian Federation. Thus, in the UNSD Demographic Yearbooks, starting with 2014, the data about the Ukrainian population is provided with no account of the Crimean residents, and the data about the population of the Russian Federation is not provided at all (three dots are put instead of a number).
However, Ukraine has not sent any similar notice to the UNSD in relation to the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions occupied by Russia. This can be accounted for primarily by the fact that Russia did not dare include these territories to its composition, the way it had done with the Crimea, and secondly – by the conclusion of the Minsk agreements that confirmed that the territories should go back to Ukraine's control.
Therefore, the State Statistics Service of Ukraine (SSSU) continues to take into account the population of the occupied territories of the two eastern regions in its assessment of the Ukrainian population. The SSSU provides the UNSD with those figures and makes them public on its site and in its printed editions.
In particular, in its annual statistics collections 'The Current Size of Ukraine's Population' the SSSU provides information as of January 1 for each region as well as for each city of regional importance and each district (including occupied cities and districts of the two eastern regions) with the breakdown into urban and rural population. Since the border between the occupied territories and the territory under Ukraine's control is known, using those collections of the SSSU, official population on the occupied territories can be counted, and it may be studied how it changed in the period from January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2017. The results of those calculations are presented in the table.
Demographic portrait
According to the above data, as of January 1, 2014 the population of Donetsk and Luhansk regions was 6,583 thousand persons, including 3,894 thousand, or 59.15% of the overall number, – in the inhabited settlements which are now under occupation. Urban population of the two regions as of the above date made up 5,885 thousand persons, of which 3,696 thousand, or 62.8%, were in the territory which is under occupation now. At the same time rural population of the two regions made up 698 thousand persons, of which 198 thousand, or 28.37% lived in the territory which is now under occupation.
Thus, the occupationists managed to take the territory in which only 5.1% of residents (198 thousand out of 3,894 thousands) lived in rural areas. In fact, this territory is a total industrial area stretching from Luhansk to Donetsk, with some adjacent small agricultural areas (in particular, the ones located close to the Russian border). In this industrial area there are both residential areas, areas of mining and industrial enterprises (bankrupt in many bases and closed or stopped not that long ago, already by the occupation authorities) and large areas of industrial waste (in particular, terricones with worked off after-mining rock) polluting air and subsoil waters.
From the economic point of view, this territory is depressive, from the environmental point of view it is a total environmental disaster area, and from the demographic point of view it is a quick population extinction zone. According to the data of the SSSU, in 2013, that is in the last year before the Russian invasion, the total birth rate in Donetsk and Luhansk regions was respectively 9.4 and 9.1 (per 1, 000 available residents) and was significantly lower than the general Ukrainian rate of 11.1. At the same time, the overall death rate in both regions made up 15.9 (per 1,000 available residents), and was much higher than the average Ukrainian rate of 14.6. Thus, the general factor of natural population growth (calculated as the difference between birth and death rates) made up -6.5 in Donetsk region and -6.8 in Luhansk region, while on average in Ukraine it was ‑3.5 (per 1,000 available residents).
Also, there was a noticeable migration outflow of residents from both regions. The integral consequences of the demographic crisis in Donetsk and Luhansk regions can be traced in the following comparison. Over ten years, from January 1, 2004 to January 1, 2014, the population of Donetsk region reduced as the result of all factors (low birth rate, high death rate, migration outflow) by 8%, that of Luhansk region – by 9.4%, and that of other regions of Ukraine – by 3.9%. It means that in Donetsk and Luhansk regions the population was shrinking more than twice as fast as in other Ukrainian regions.
But the data refers to the whole territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In a number of mining towns the figures were even worse. And it is those towns that mainly got under occupation.
Occupation consequences
After the Russian invasion, the demographic trends in Donbas have been changing drastically. And all of them have been changing towards further deterioration.
The first result of the occupation was a wave of refugees. Many people had grounds to be afraid for their lives since they had took a clearly pro-Ukrainian standpoint. For young families the main motif was a wish not to put their children at risk. Also, many men wanted to avoid compulsory call-up to the occupation army.
Economic motifs added up to personal safety motifs: more and more people were losing their businesses or were left without any job. Besides that, state institutions were evacuated from the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk, and many of their staff members moved with them to Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Artemivsk (now – Bakhmut), Severodonetsk. Also, higher educational establishments were evacuated (in particular, Donetsk Vasyl Stus National University moved to Vinnytsya), and many students moved to their new places of studies.
Among those who left the occupied territories there prevailed young people and middle-aged people (including those with pre-school and school-age children), while the share of people of pre-pension and elderly age was comparatively low. A typical phenomenon was that adult children moved to the territory controlled by Ukraine, while their parents-pensioners stayed there not to leave their apartment unattended. This process was going on: in summer 2017, the same as in the three previous summers, school-leavers left the occupied territory in masses to enter Ukrainian higher educational establishments. For this category of prospective students the procedure of enrolment was specifically simplified, and passport, certificate of complete general secondary education, certificate of external independent appraisal were not mandatory.
All the above trends have generally resulted in a considerable distortion of the demographic structure of the population in the occupied territories. Prior the war it had already been characterized by a lower share of young generations than on average in Ukraine, and now the share has reduced even more, and the share of pensioners has increased.
It's clear that reduction of the share of young people results, in its turn, in the fall of the birth rate. Besides, the curfew makes life more complicated for those in love, and young families normally don't dare have children in the conditions of uncertain nearest future.
That is why until the territories are under occupation, the share of young generations in the structure of the population that remains there will keep on shrinking. At the same time the share of the elderly people will increase. And this, in its turn, will result in further increase of the general death rate factor.
Thus, Russian occupation has pushed local residents into the demographic spiral of extinction and degeneracy.
Registration problems
According to the above data provided by the SSSU, the population in the territories of Donbas that are under occupation reduced by 45 thousand persons over 2014, by 21 thousand persons over 2015, and only by 5 thousand persons in 2016. Such strange dynamics can be accounted for in a very simple way: it reflects not the real trends in the occupied territories but the stage-by-stage decrease in the information flow reaching the SSSU.
In the period between population censuses (the last of which was made back in 2001) changes in the population in each inhabited settlement are calculated on the basis of the data provided by state bodies registering people at their place of residence. Every month the estimated number is adjusted through adding the number of births and those who got registered and deducting the number of deceased and those who were struck off the register.
Over almost the whole 2014 the respective authorities still functioned in the whole territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and transmitted collected information to Kyiv. But gradually those bodies stopped functioning in the towns and districts with the occupation regime. In particular, territorial bodies of the SSSU – the Main Administrations of Statistics in Donetsk and Luhansk regions – moved, respectively, to Artemivsk and Severodonetsk on December 1, 2014.
Ukrainian authorities were replaced by self-proclaimed 'authorities' in recording births, deaths and residence, without Ukraine's authorization to that. The SSSU neither gets reports from them nor takes into account the information they make public.
The data of the State Statistics Service, even if it includes some data on the occupied territories, it is only the data coming from Ukrainian authorities in the territory under Ukraine's control. In particular, this could be the data about the change of permanent residence. The largest migration flow from the occupied territories could be traced in the last months of 2014 and the first half of 2015. Then it gradually subsided.
Besides, in April 2016 the State Migration Service of Ukraine stopped providing state statistics bodies with basic information for estimating migration flow of residents (the data about registration and striking off the residence register in Ukraine), referring to the new Rules of Residence Registration approved by Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine as of March 02, 2016 No. 207, and some provisions of the Law of Ukraine On Amending Some Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Expanding the Mandate of Local Self-Government Bodies and Optimizing Administrative Services Provision approved on December 10 and coming into effect on December 29, 2015. Due to that, information on migration, starting with April 2016, has been developed by the State Statistics Service on the basis of available administrative data arriving from executive bodies of city, town, urban village, village councils and village heads.
Migration inflow
Still, besides the migration outflow of residents from the occupied territories, there also could be traced some migration inflow there. In particular, members of anti-Ukrainian organizations were fleeing from the territories controlled by Ukraine, including those of Kharkiv 'Oplot'. Even a larger share of migration inflow was represented by the citizens of the RF who came to the occupied territories within the occupation army, either as mercenaries, or to have service in the occupation administration, or for carrying out some other criminal activity. Their number was about tens of thousands.
In particular, the size of the Russian occupation army in the east of Ukraine is some 39–40 thousand people. Army general Viktor Muzhenko, the Head of the General Staff – Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, announced this figure in the Liga.net interview published on August 8, 2017. In his words, this number includes 'rebels, mercenaries, and regular Russian service men'.
The head of the General Staff stressed that 'in Donbas there are no illegal military groups, these are well-structured military organisms. These are the 1st and 2nd Army Corps, bearing all the signs of regular troops. Most important is the fact that they are managed from the centre which is located in Russia. The commanding commissioned staff in both corps were regular Russian service men. Plus mercenaries, including the so called military men who are contract soldiers of the Russian army as privates and sergeants who are said to be 'on their business trip'. And those called rebels are just the propaganda curtain. A picture for TV. They are trying to deceive both Ukrainian and in particular Russian society'.
Muzhenko reminded that Ukrainian military had take many Russian service men captive and noted the fact confirmed that there were regular members of the RF's armed forces in Donbas. 'For example, according to the information provided by a detained Russian contract soldier Ageyev, the unit he served in, consisted 30% of regular Russian military men. Mainly these were mercenaries coming from the Russian territory. The documents obtained also confirm that regular Russian service men are there, as well as Russian citizens who claim to be 'rebels', that is the residents of the occupied districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions', – said the head of the General Staff of the AFU.
Several dozens Russian service men are now staying in the occupied territories seemingly legally (on the basis of an agreement with the Ukrainian side) within the Joint Centre for Controlling and Coordinating the Issues of Ceasefire and Stabilization of Demarkation Lines of the Parties. Besides that, the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) works in Ukraine. According to the latest SMM's report, it consists of 625 foreign observers (representing 44 OSCE Member States, including 36 observers from Russia), and almost 550 of them work in the east of Ukraine, and 95 other foreign staff members.
Statistical data comparison
The problem of migration flow from the RF is topical, but in any case of importance is the question how many Ukrainian citizens still remain in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
As it has already been stated, official statistics of the SSSU includes only a small portion of the changes the population of the occupied territories has undergone. The data of the latest collection 'The Current Size of Ukraine's Population' shows that as of January 1, 2017 in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions there resided 3,823 thousand people. However, this number is obviously inflated, which fact is recognized by the State Statistics Service itself.
The occupation authorities have established activity of statistical bodies in Donetsk since February 2015 and in Luhansk since August 2015. They have published the data about the dynamics in the population size starting with January 1, 2015.
The occupation statistics shows that as of January 1, 2017 in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions there resided 3,803 thousand persons, as of August 1, 2017 – 3,785 thousands. This is 38 thousands less than according to the Ukrainian statistics, however even this figure is also obviously inflated.
It should be stressed once again that Ukrainian statistics does not involve the information obtained from the self-proclaimed 'authorities' of the occupied territories, Hence, the SSSU and occupation statistics get the data from absolutely different sources and about absolutely different events: The SSSU takes into account only the events recorded by the Ukrainian bodies (in case they notify the State Statistics Service about that), while the occupation statistics includes only the events recorded by the occupation bodies.
Comparison of Ukrainian and occupation statistics is provided in the table. The figures there suggest some conclusions. Let us take January 1, 2014 as the starting point. At that time in the territories of Donbas that are now under occupation there resided 3,894 thousand persons. Over three years (2014–2016) the SSSU estimated reduction of population in those territories as amounting to 71 thousand persons. And occupation statistics for two years and seven months (starting with January 2015 up till July 2017) found population reduction in those territories by 86 thousand persons. Since both of those figures – 71 thousands and 86 thousands – take into account the data received from absolutely different sources and about absolutely different events, the laws of logic suggest that the indices should just be added up. The sum would equal 157 thousand, which is a bit closer to the real scope of demographic losses over three years and six months.
If we deduct 157 thousands from 3,894 thousands, as of January 1, 2014, we will get 3,737 thousands as of August 1, 2017. That figure may be considered top assessment of the real number of Ukrainian population (without taking account the inflow of occupationists) in the occupied territories of Donbas.
Birth rate crisis
Though there are no grounds to consider statistics provided by the occupation authorities reliable, still its figures enable us to get a quantitative assessment of one (but not all) of the main components of the occupation-caused demographic crisis, viz.: determine the scope of birth rate fall.
According to the occupation authorities,data during 2015 in the occupied part of Donetsk region 9,162 children were born, during 2016 – 11,771, during January-July 2017 – 6,852. The general birth rate factor made up respectively 3.9 in 2015, 5.1 in 2016 and again 5.1 in 2017. It means that if by the end of 2017 the same birth rate is maintained as the one traced over the first seven months, the overall figure for the year will be five (to be more exact – 5.1) of newly born children per one thousand of the current residents.
To compare, let us take the general birth factor in Donetsk region over the last three years before the Russian intervention: 9.5 in 2011, 9.8 in 2012, and 9.4 in 2013. The average figure over the three years is about 9.6. And after the intervention this factor in the occupied part of Donetsk region makes up on average 4.7 over the three years, which means that occupation has caused birth rate drop more than twice.
One cannot doubt that the occupation authorities are interested in showing improvement in the demographic situation and, therefore, try to reflect in their statistical reports all the children born. However, they turn out to be very few.
And nobody normally wants to provide false overestimation of the birth rate, since that is a dangerous thing for all those involved in such a fraud. If documents are issued for a false (unborn) child, in some time the family or the orphanage which allegedly brings up the child can be asked: and where is (s)he? If the child is not shown, suspicions may arise of murder or at least some fraud. Everybody understands that the authorities may change (both in the occupied territories and in Russia), and therefore does not want to take the risk.
Besides that, in order to considerably raise the birth rate factor – at least by one, let us say, from 5.0 to 6.0, – one needs to distort information about the birth of a whole hundred of children per each hundred of thousands of residents annually. That is a huge fraud for the sake of a small result – just improvement of one of the great number of indicators in the statistical report about achievements of the 'young republic'.
Certainly, that does not mean that birth rate figures are absolutely reliable and do not contain any false data. But judging by the fact that the factor published remains very low, systemic and large-scale falsifications in statistical reporting about the birth rate in the occupied territories seem to be of low probability.
Concealed death rate
At the same time, great doubts arise as to the fact that the occupation authorities record and take into account all the deceased. Let us provide the value of the overall death rate factor in Donetsk region over the last three years before the war: 16.1 in 2011 and 2012, and 15.9 in 2013. The average over the three years is about 16.0. After the Russian intervention, according to the data of the occupation authorities, in the occupied part of Donetsk region this factor equaled 12.5 in 2015, 15.0 in 2016, and 15.1 in 2017 (according to the dynamics of January-July). The average over the three years is 14.2, which is even below the pre-war level.
It is clear that the occupation authorities are interested in underestimating the death rate among residents, in particular, concealing the cases of murders of the residents in the occupied territories by occupationists and collaborators. They have all the possibilities for that: the civil society is oppressed both in the occupied territories and in Russia, there is no international control, in fact (the OSCE's SMM does not have the police mandate and cannot take investigative action as well as operational and search action).
Also, the occupation authorities strive to conceal the number of occupationists who perished. The Decree of the President of the RF Putin as of November 30, 2015 includes the data about the losses in the military staff to state secrets. The head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Hrytsak informed at the briefing meeting on July 22, 2017 that 'according to the SSU's data, in the territory of Ukraine there have already perished several thousands of Russian service men and mercenaries'. Site gruz200.zzz.com.ua has published the list of 3,817 perished and missing Russian service men and mercenaries as of September 1, 2017.
Combat actions were most intensive starting with August 2014 up till February 2015. But even after that the level of losses among occupationists remains rather high. As of June 15, 2017, the Ukrainian BBC editorial board told, referring to the words of the spokesman of the Chief Intelligence Office of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Vadym Skibitskyy, that the CIO has got the data confirmed by documents that over April 2015 – May 2017 1,757 persons fighting on the side of the occupationists perished (over 9 months of 2015 – 627 persons, in 2016 – 850, and over five months of 2017 – 280 persons). This 'natural loss' of the Russian contingent in Donbas is permanently replenished with new soldiers arriving from the RF.
Still, though the occupation statistics provides an obviously underestimated death rate factor, the natural growth factor for the residents of the occupied part of Donetsk region appears to be lower than anywhere else not only in Ukraine but in the world as well. According to the UN data (World Population Prospects 2017), the worst figure of the factor is traced in Bulgaria: ‑5.6 in 2010–15 and forecasted as ‑6.0 in 2015–20. Then goes Latvia (respectively, ‑4.2 and ‑5.1) and Ukraine (respectively ‑4.1 and ‑4.4). In 23 peaceful regions of Ukraine (without the AR of Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk and Luhansk regions), according to the data of the State Statistics Service, this factor makes up on average ‑4.2 in 2015, ‑4.5 in 2016 and ‑5.9 in 2017 (according to the dynamics of the first half-year). And in occupied part of Donetsk region, as the occupation statistics informs, it was equal to ‑8.6 in 2015, ‑9.9 in 2016 and ‑10 in 2017 (according to the dynamics of January-July). The real figures are probably even worse – due to hidden death rate.
The occupation authorities don't provide any data on the birth rate and death rate in the occupied part of Luhansk region. One may assume that there the figures are even more worrying.
Semi-virtual displaced persons
As far as migration is concerned, the occupation statistics shows almost zero migration growth for the occupied part of Donetsk region in 2015 and positive one in the following years: 2 thousand persons in 2016 and 5 more thousand persons in January-July 2017. But the number of those coming and those leaving is not mentioned, there is no data breakdown by the geographical directions of migration flows. Thus, the figures are not reliable. As far as the occupied part of Luhansk region is concerned, the occupation statistics does not provide any information on the migration growth at all, the same as about the natural population growth.
In April 2017 the official spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Maria Zakharova stated, referring to the data of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation, as of March 16, 2017, that in the territory of the RF there are 2.3 mln. Ukrainian citizens, of which refugees from Donbas make over 1 mln. In fact, the FMS of the RF was liquidated by Mr. Putin's order back in April 2016, and its functions were handed over to the Chief Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the RF. However, the figures were not affected by this. The FMS of the RF stated this data about a million of refugees also in summer 2015, but from all over Ukraine, and not only from Donbas. In February 2016 the Service told that out of this million 415 thousand persons were asking for a temporary asylum, 260 thousands more wanted to get the permission for temporary residence (issued for the period of three years with no prolongation entitlement), and 152 thousands got the Russian citizenship becoming the participants of the state program of voluntary compatriot resettlement.
In February 2017 the Chief Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the RF informed that in 2016 100 thousand Ukrainian citizens got Russian citizenship, including 75 thousands – as state program participants, and in general over 2014–16 192 thousand Ukrainian citizens became Russians (with no account of the Crimean residents who were all registered as Russian citizens). Two months later the above mentioned Office of the Ministry of Interior of the RF recognized that as of March 21, 2017 the number of Ukrainian citizens who had been granted the temporary asylum in the Russian Federation reduced to 234 thousands. These two categories in total make up 426 thousand persons, while the rest of the million mentioned by Zakharova can be considered overestimated.
The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine recoded the highest number of displaced persons on July 4, 2016: over 1,790 thousands. At the 'Political Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine' conference that took place on June 15, 2016 in Kyiv, deputy minister for occupied territories and internally displaced persons Heorhiy Tuka announced that, by the estimates of international organizations, only some 800 thousand displaced persons were staying in the Ukraine-controlled territories. According to Tuka, the study was conducted by the organizations which analyzed the increase of the load on educational institutions, maternity houses, etc. in the place of registration of displaced persons, as well as changes in the statistics of death rate and other indicators there.
Then the number of registered displaced persons went down, in particular, due to the fact that starting with July 1, 2016 all the pension payments for internally displaced persons were to be made via 'Oschadbank'. The Minister for Social Policy Andriy Reva informed back then that after the reconciliations made pension payments were terminated for half of displaced pensioners – 600 thousands out of 1,200 thousands. According to the Minister, 'these are the people who crossed the demarcation line with the territory not controlled by Ukraine, but to whom money was paid'.
On September 4, 2017 the Ministry of Social Policy informed that, according to the data of structural units of residents social security of regional and Kyiv city state administrations, 1,592 thousand persons displaced from Donbas and Crimea got registered (198 thousands less than the last-year maximum). 20 thousands of them were Crimean residents. The largest number of displaced persons live in the unoccupied part of Donbas (533 thousands) and Luhansk region (291 thousands). However, those figures run counter to the data provided by the State Statistics Service, according to which the population in the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions under Ukraine's control over 2014–16 did not only grow, but vice versa shrank by 73 thousand persons.
If we take 3,894 thousand persons in the now-occupied territories of Donbas as of January 1, 2014, deduct 1,572 thousand persons displaced from Donbas (with no account of Crimean residents), mentioned by the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, and the million of refugees to the RF Zakharova talks about, only 1,322 thousand persons are left, which is an unrealistically small figure. The figure seems to be closer to reality if we deduct from 3,894 thousands the same 800 thousands Tyka mentions, and still 426 thousands, which, according to the Ministry of Interior of the RF, have acquired the Russian citizenship or have received a temporary asylum in the RF. Then we get 2,668 thousands, which may be considered the lowest assessment of the real number of Ukrainian residents in the occupied territories of Donbas.
Most probably, among those who have gone to Russia, a considerable (if not the overwhelming) part is made up by the residents of the part of Donbas which is now controlled by Ukraine, as well as actors of the Yanukovych regime, participants of separatist riots in Kharkiv, Odesa, etc., who fled in the threat of imprisonment. One also cannot be sure of the 800 thousand displaced persons Tuka has mentioned, since the figure was calculated in a rather indirect way, besides that a lot of displaced persons who stay in the part of Donbas which remains under Ukraine's control regularly visit their homes located in the occupied territories.
For a more reliable assessment the mean of the above upper estimate (3,737 thousands) and the lower estimate (2,668 thousands) should be taken, that is 3,203 thousands, or the rounded figure of 3.2 mln. persons.
Age composition
Taking into account the above estimates, one may provide characteristics of the age composition of the residents of the occupied territories of Donbas.
According to the data provided by the SSSU, as of January 1, 2014 children and young people under 20 made up only 17% of the total population in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while in other regions of Ukraine the share was considerably higher – 20.4%. The share of residents aged 20-39 in Donetsk and Luhansk regions made up 30.1%, while in other regions it was 30.4%. At the same time, the share of residents aged 40-59 in Donetsk and Luhansk regions was as high as 29.2%, which is much higher than in other regions – 28%. Still wider was the difference in the share of residents aged 60 and above: 23.8% in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, being 21.2% in other regions.
The State Statistics Service does not provide data concerning the age composition of population in all the cities and districts public, but it does provide the data for the cities with the population over 100 thousand persons. In the occupied territories of eastern regions there are five cities like that: Donetsk, Makiyivka, Horlivka in Donetsk region and Luhansk and Alchevsk in Luhansk region. Their average age composition as of January 1, 2014 did not differ considerably from the average figures for Donetsk and Luhansk regions and was characterized by the following figures: only 16.6% of children and young people under 20, 31.6% of residents aged 20-39, 28.6% – aged 40-59, 23.1% – aged 60 and above.
Over 2014–17 in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as the result of migration outflow of young people and families with children as well as the birth rate fall the share of children and young people under 20 reduced considerably. Judging by the available data, it may be stated that it dropped to 10% or even less, which means that now it is more than twice smaller than in the peaceful regions of Ukraine. The share of residents aged 20-39 also reduced considerably as the result of migration – approximately to 27%. At the same time, the share of residents aged 40-59 increased approximately to 35%, and of those aged 60 and above – up to 28% or even more, which exceeds the figure in peaceful regions of Ukraine by one third.
New threats
Discussing the demographic prospects for the occupied territories of the east of Ukraine, one should take into account new threats posed for the health of local residents, resulting from the Russian occupation. They are gradually being strengthened and may have long-term negative consequences.
One of such threats is rapid deterioration of the public health system. Most doctors of both state, municipal and private health care institutions have left for the territory under Ukraine's control. In particular, Donetsk social media users inform that the city is left with few dentists.
Quite often doctors have to hand their businesses over to the representatives of the occupation authorities for a song and to leave their native city. Now medical institutions provide service primarily or exclusively for the occupation army.
And the supplies of drugs and medicines for farmacies have deteriorated significantly, and drugs have become more expensive. In their turn, doctors who remain in the occupied territories have increased the cost of their services many times. And local residents cannot do anything about that since now there is almost no competition in health care.
Due to such a state of affairs one may expect further rise in the death rate among the residents of the occupied territories of Donbas. This year, after the so-called nationalization of companies by the occupation authorities, two more negative trends have appeared. The first is the fall in the overall standard of living due to closure of companies. More people are incapable of providing themselves with good nutrition, the necessary medicines and medical services.
Secondly, the environmental situation is becoming worse, it being absolutely bad even before the war. A special threat is posed by the expected flooding of mine 'Yunkom' in the town of Bunge (former Yunokomunarivsk) of Yenakiyevo town council, where in 1979 an underground explosion was arranged for the sake of reducing tension in the mountainous area. The risk of the mine flooding became apparent in June 2017, and it may lead to radioactive contamination of underground waters.
The Russian occupation of parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions has led to a sharp deterioration of the demographic situation throughout the territories, especially in the occupied cities and districts. Negative trends are manifest in all three main fields that determine the population dynamics: migration, fertility, mortality.
Migration outflow of population took place on either side of the front line. People escaped the war, and also left for political reasons. Some went to Russia, some - to peaceful regions of Ukraine. But besides, people left their homes in the occupied cities and regions because of the loss of work or business and even because of the lack of good prospects for themselves. For more than two years, these problems, and not hostilities, have been the main reasons for migration outside the occupied territories.
In 2017, after the «nationalization» of enterprises owned by Ukrainian companies in the occupied territories, the migratory outflow from these territories increased. In fact, the Ukrainian economy's inability to absorb a large quantity of new labor force is its only restrain now. By the way, the Russian economy is also incapable of doing it.
Youth leaves the occupied territories most actively, for young people are normally highly mobile searching the better prospects. The birth rate drop in the occupied part of Donetsk region is quite indicative of this trend. According to occupational statistics, the fertility rate in 2016 equated 5.1 per 1,000 people. Meanwhile, according to the Ukrainian State Statistics Service, the figure was as twice as high, 10.2 per 1,000 people.
Available data allows us to claim that migratory outflow of young people and families with children and a decrease in the birth rate has resulted in children and young people under 20 portion shrinking to 10% or even less, and now it is as twice as low as in peaceful regions of Ukraine (20.5%). Also, the share of population aged 20-39 has declined considerably due to migration - down to approximately 27% (in the peaceful regions of Ukraine - 29.5%). Meantime, the share of 40-59-year-olds has increased to about 35%, a quarter higher than in the peaceful regions of Ukraine (28.1%). And the share of those aged 60 and older has reached 28% or even more, almost one third higher than in the peaceful regions of Ukraine (21.8%).
These population age composition deformations inevitably result in mortality rise, since among the elderly, it is always much higher than among younger generations. Moreover, death rate in the occupied territories rises due to the terror conducted by the occupation authorities, sharp healthcare deterioration, and lack of medicines. In 2017, it was accompanied by local population rapid living standards decline because of mass closure of «nationalized» enterprises and, at the same time, worsening environmental conditions caused by mines flooding.
The Yunkom mine flooding that began on June 30, 2017, is especially dangerous. In 1979, a nuclear device was set off in the mine located near Enakievo to reduce tension within the bedrocks. The mine flooding can cause groundwater radioactive contamination, and it is fraught with peril for Enakievo and its vicinities.
According to invaders' statistics, the occupied part of Donetsk Oblast mortality rate was 15 per 1.000 people in 2016. It is just a bit higher than in the peaceful regions of Ukraine (14.7 per 1.000 according to the State Statistics Service). However, even with mortality rate that clearly understated, in 2016, the natural population growth ratio (the birth and mortality rates residual) in the occupied parts of Donetsk Oblast reached almost 10 per 1.000 inhabitants. According to UN statistics, there is no country on the globe with a ratio that bad. In the peaceful regions of Ukraine, it was 4.5 per 1.000 inhabitants.
The real mortality rate in the occupied territories may exceed 20 per 1.000. Consequently, the natural population growth rate may be 15 per 1000 inhabitants or even higher. The situation will obviously worsen: the migration outflow of youth will continue, the fertility rate will fall, the share of children and young people will decrease, while the share of elderly people will grow, and mortality will leap even higher.
Both Ukraine and Russia will have to consider the circumstances while designing Donbass future. The Kremlin is scarcely going to increase spending to maintain the captured territories and locals, facing growing number of pensioners among them. Also, numerous ethnic Russians from Russian provinces are unlikely to settle there: Donbass is different from Crimea. But even in Crimea, ethnic Russians migrating from Russia prefer settling along the subtropical Southern coast, neither northern mountains nor the steppe areas. And Donbass is a slag-heaped steppe.
But the Kremlin has another way of solving demographic problems of the captured part of Donbass. Russia has a considerable «demographic reserve» of Chechens, Ossetians, and other North Caucasian nations. And this «reserve» as such is also a big Russia's problem.
Therefore, if the Kremlin dwells on the frozen conflict scenario, one can expect rapid increase in North Caucasian people presence in the occupied Donbass territories. It's not a secret that the Chechen and Ossetian militants took an active part in occupation of Donbas. They stood out among other groups of occupants by treating the locals in a more aggressive manner and confronting co-invaders. Because of the latter they had to return home in the spring of 2015. But they have remembered Donbass area and the way there well.
Settling a hundred thousand North Caucasian families having three to four children instead of one usual for locals during the last decade – and in a couple generations the newcomers' descendants will be as numerous in the occupied territories as people of Slavonic ancestry. It would make sense, explaining the locals living under occupation prospects like this.
Ukraine hasn't got those «demographic reserves». Therefore, it is necessary to develop its own plan of solving the Donbass's demographic problems before it is completely de-occupied, since these problems may even worsen after most anti-Ukrainian part of the population leaves the region.
Above all, favorable conditions should be created for returning refugees who had moved to the territories controlled by Ukraine. However, it won't be enough. Stimulating the baby boom is necessary, in the Donbass as well as in the rest regions of Ukraine. Now the mission looks impossible. But the war end, an economic growth, and living standards growth might form appropriate mood in society. And it will be up to the authorities how to make use of it.
Donbass needs projects attracting unemployed population from other regions, especially young people, both men and women. Ukraine's Western partners have repeatedly promised multibillion-dollar aid to renovate Donbas infrastructure. But meanwhile it is necessary to seek investors to create new enterprises. Otherwise there will be nobody to use the infrastructure.