“Iron Curtain”: Why Kiev Prevents Ukrainians From Fleeing to Russia En Masse

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



According to the data published by the State Statistics Service of Ukraine (SSSU), in 2017 alone the Russian Federation was visited by about 4.5 million Ukrainians. No less than a 100,000 of them already obtained citizenship of the Russian Federation, 1.5 million requested the status of refugees, and two thirds of this number have employment rights for territories from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. In this regard, the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers at the suggestion of the President Petro Poroshenko began the implementation of the program under the working name “Rescue of the gene pool”, which people already christened “Iron Curtain”: the government sent to regions bordering Russia an appeal to “stop the flow of citizens of Ukraine to the neighboring state at any cost”. The authorities of a number of the aforementioned regions apprehended this directive too literally. The situation was studied by the correspondent of the Federal News Agency (FAN).

“Over the past few years Ukraine achieved a lot: it increased its defense capability, carried out a number of social reforms, provided citizens with free crossing of the borders with the European Union,” stated the head of the Ukrainian State on another, which already became regular, ceremony for the delivery of State awards. “Unfortunately, there are Ukrainians who didn’t estimate these successes and today look with hope towards the Kremlin. We don’t hold on to people who aren’t patriots of Ukraine!”

What the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko meant exactly by the latter phrase is not completely clear. First of all, it’s not clear to the 25-year-old agronomist from the Chernigov region Aleksandr Fedorishin, who processes documents for receiving a residence permit in Bryansk [Russia – ed].

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“I passed through all circles of hell and humiliation at the district passport office,” stated the young specialist to the correspondent of the FAN. “At first I was asked why I need Russia. Then they tried to find out whether I want to get rid of my Ukrainian passport and whether I was recruited by the FSB”.

The result of the “conversation” was a visit to Fedorishin’s apartment by representatives of law enforcement bodies — people in both uniforms and plain clothes confiscated from the agronomist – who at the wrong time declared that he wasn’t a patriot of Ukraine and isn’t going to be – an old computer and took several of his institute notes for examination. Subsequently the head of the agricultural firm where Aleksandr worked explained to him that regional management “will find 1,000 reasons to not let a person with higher education go to work in the ‘aggressor country’ (this is what the Verkhovna Rada officially calls the Russian Federation)”.

A family from Putivl (Sumy region) found themselves in a much more unpleasant situation. Being inspired by the idea of Kiev “to rescue the gene pool”, Ukrainian border guards forbade a pregnant woman, her husband, and her two-year-old son from departing to the Russian Federation. The reason for the refusal is paradoxical: the guards at the same time worried about the health of the potential woman in labor and for the conditions of her husband and child staying in Russia. This situation was aggravated  by the fact that the vast majority of the relatives of this family from Putivl live in the Voronezh region [Russia – ed]. The head of the family still tries to find out the real reason for the Sumy authorities’ ban on departure to this day.

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“The described cases are only a small part of what indeed happens today in Ukraine,” said the curator of special projects of the civil platform “Antimaydan-18” Oleg Kanyuk. “It’s not only Ukrainians who want to lodge in Russia who are subjected to persecution in their historical Motherland. So-called ‘patriotic organisations’, including ‘Svoboda’ and ‘Right Sector’ – the representatives of which are deeply rooted in the offices of local public administrations – persecute so-called ‘gastarbeiters’ who worked for decades in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Saratov, and Ekaterinburg. Ordinary workers far from politics are called ‘traitors’, and their relatives are threatened with physical violence. Now one thing is clear: Kiev cuts itself off from Moscow not only by digging ditches and constructing illusive walls [Yatsenyuk’s failed pledge – ed] on the Ukrainian-Russian border, but also by an ‘Iron Curtain’, i.e., by preventing the mass migration of Ukrainians to the Russian Federation. But why it this necessary for Poroshenko and Groisman?”

Even the representatives of the Ukrainian authorities answer this question indirectly. On the basis of full confidentiality one of the senior figures of the SSSU department told the correspondent of the FAN the following:

“Our leaders don’t want at all to recognise that, despite all their straining, the passport of a citizen of Ukraine – even in the conditions of a visa-free regime – lost any appeal. Today our people prefer a stable and provided-for life in Russian or Poland to a beggarly existence in their Motherland”.

By the way, according to this official, along with the Russian Federation, Poland, the relationship with which Kiev managed to spoil, is another “attractive direction for the mass exodus of Ukrainians”. It isn’t excluded that Kiev will lower the “Iron Curtain” in front of Warsaw too.

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