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Russians: the refugees the world prefers to forget

The break-up of the USSR left 25 million Russians outside Russia. In many places they are the subject of discrimination and in Ukraine they are the victims of war. Yet in the West, their plight is ignored.

Whilst the eyes of the world are on the wars in the Middle East and North Africa and the accompanying refugee crisis, there is a silent war and a silent refugee crisis that is being ignored.

The war is of course the War in the Donbass region of historic Novorossiya. In a statement from 31st July released by the Defence Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic, there have been 817 new bombardments from Kiev’s military and paramilitaries in the past day alone. Homes have been destroyed and civilian casualties have occurred.

These bombardments like previous ones are in total violation of the internationally sanctioned Minsk Agreement of 2015. The war continues yet coverage has greatly ceased. The only irony of this tragic situation is that by insisting on the preservation of the even then uneasy borders of pre-coup d’etat Ukraine, western leaders are actually enforcing the arbitrary borders of a state originally created as a Soviet Republic in the aftermath of the October Revolution. The principle of national self-determination seems to fall on deaf ears whilst the bombs keep falling on innocent civilians.

But this raises an even broader issue, one that has existed since 1991. Conservative figures state that over 25 million Russian people find themselves refugees. These are people who went to sleep in a country where their rights were constitutionally protected and woke up in a foreign land, often as persons without status/non-citizens. They were of course given a say in the Soviet Referendum of 1991 in which the vast majority of Soviet citizens voted to remain part of the Soviet Union. But in spite of this, their pleas were ignored and the leaders of only three Soviet republics agreed to unilaterally dismember the state during a secret meeting in Belavezha Forest…..Soviexit through the back door.

The situation of Russians living in foreign lands persists and the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care. During the 1990s the Russian government didn’t particularly care either. Whilst under Putin and Medvedev steps have been taken to help the Russian refugees, more action should be taken and the process should be simplified. Anyone who is a Russian person ought to have the right to citizenship of the Russian federation. The process should be simple since the issue is straightforward. Far from antagonising the states where these Russians have been displaced, if these states find the presence of Russian people so deeply distasteful, this should be all the more reason for such states to cooperate with Russia in this matter, including in respect of financial compensation given directly to affected individuals.

Of course for those Russians who want to remain outside of the Russian Federation (a home is a home after all, in many cases) international bodies should insure the removal of any legal discrimination and cooperate on ending any ethnic tensions. This is based on the most fundamental principles of humanity. Unlike other waves of refugees, the Russian refugees did not flee their homes, they had their country ripped out from beneath them. They are owed better and all states should cooperate in this matter for the benefit of all.

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