Russia’s official state English language television network RT (formerly Russia Today) featured a story this week claiming that Ukrainians displaced by the war in the Donbas were not welcome in the Ukrainian mainland.

Sfollati Donbas
Website screenshot

Journalist Antonina Mykhailenko writing from Kyiv, relies on unnamed experts, hearsay and sweeping generalizations.”Ukrainians dislike internally displaced people”, Mykhailenko declares and  while official data indicate the opposite, the author determinedly ignores  everything that will not support her thesis, that “People who leave Donbas are denied housing and employment and are accused of unleashing a war”. She dismisses sociological data that does not support her arguments as “intentionally understated”.

Although Mikhailenko refers to the data presented in the official September 2017 report on internally displaced people (IDPs) prepared by Ukraine’s official National Monitoring System in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration, the data is summarily dismissed by an “unnamed director of a leading Ukrainian sociological institute” who claims “the report does not reflect reality because only those IDPs who settled in Kyiv were included in the study”. This anonymous expert also claims that Ukraine does not have a single program for resettling IDPs from the east nor does it have any assistance programs to support them.

Filled with all manner of generalizations, the story contains only one official quote, that of an expert from the Institute of CIS countries, a Russian NGO studying the post-Soviet countries neighboring Russia.  This institute is often cited in pro-Kremlin propagandist media.

Since 2015 Ukraine has enforced an integrated state program which among other things facilitates the integration and social adaptation of IDPs in their new place of residence. The program has launched many social campaigns as shown in this interactive map listing all organizations assisting IDPs in Ukraine.

Website screenshot
Website screenshot

The International Organization for Migration has been preparing reports on Ukrainian IDPs since 2016, its September 2017 report is based on data from 24 regions collected from face-to-face and telephone interviews, surveys, focus groups and other relevant data. 1205 IDP households in 205 different locations throughout Ukraine were interviewed for this report.

According to the report findings, when there were reports of discrimination, they were usually connected to suspension of social benefits.  9 percent of the interviewed IDPs said they had encountered discrimination mainly in housing, employment and health care, 2 percent reported tension between IDPs and the host community while 1 percent noted tension between IDPs and veterans who returned from tours of duty in the war zone.

Ukraine’s most reputable polling agency the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology conducted a survey for the High Commissioner for Refugees on Ukrainian attitudes toward IDPs. Results show that 43 percent said their views of IDPs were positive, 47% said they were neutral. Only 6% expressed a negative view while 4% were not sure.

Responding to the question “would you hire IDPs to renovate your home if you found their qualification and price estimate satisfactory” 60 percent said yes, 20% said no, 17% were unsure while 3% replied  “yes but with certain conditions”. 50 percent said they would rent apartments to IDPs while 24% said they would not.

The RT article also claims that Ukraine has not fulfilled any of its promises to help IDPs who continue to be denied housing and employment despite having diplomas and experience.

Website screenshot

This is patently untrue as one of Ukraine’s most recent programs enacted to support IDPs Accessible Housing allows 50 % compensation for housing purchases as well as government loans at 7% interest.

Website screenshot

As for employment, the IOM report shows that 49% of all IDP households are employed, 78% of IDP men aged 18-59 are employed, this is 10% more than the Ukrainian national average.