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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 5, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
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Nikolai Patrushev, secretary  of Russia's Security Council, has accused refugees from Ukraine of "aggravating the criminal situation" in the south of Russia, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing RIA Novosti.

While at a field meeting of the Security Council in Astrakhan, Patrushev spoke of the problems of the Southern Federal District, which encompasses Krasnodar, Astrakhan and other regions and notably Rostov Region bordering on Ukraine (translation by The Interpreter):

A growth in the conflict potential has been observed in connection with the growing migration load. The presence of almost 73,000 non-employed refugees from Ukraine complicates the criminal situation.

Patrushev also says that the number of terrorist-related crimes in the South Federal District more than doubled in 2015 compared to 2014, although this district no longer includes the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and others noted for armed conflict with law-enforcers which were incorporated into the North Caucasus Federal District in 2010. Patrushev said most of the crimes were related to "incitement of hatred" and "participation in unlawful armed formations on the territory of  Syria." That would seem unrelated to Russians and Russian-speakers who fled from Ukraine. 

Even so, Patrushev said "effective resolution of these problems will enable the preservation of social stability in the region" and gave a figure that appears to be the number of refugees from Ukraine just in the Southern Federal District who do not have jobs.

Last November, the Federal Migration Service abolished a system of preferences for stays and work in Russia by citizens of Ukraine. New rules require that a citizen of Ukraine have proof of employment, permission for temporary stay or hard-to-get refugee status; most people from Ukraine can only stay 90 to 180 days. Refugees specifically from the Donbass get exceptions, says Novaya Gazeta although it is not clear how this is applied.

RIA Novosti said that "more than a million" people sought refuge in Russia or other parts of Ukraine from the war in the Donbass. According to the Federal Migration Service, "about 900,000 citizens of Ukraine" came to Russia, and plan to stay for a long time or "forever."

Curiously, Patrushev did not attempt to estimate the number of militants or Islamist sympathizers in this region. That may be due to the fact that officially, the Kremlin says that most of these people, encouraged to go to the war in Syria before the Sochi Olympics to get them out of the way, were killed there or prevented from returning -- although it seems unlikely this effort succeeded in dealing with the "2,700 fighters" claimed by the Kremlin (or whatever realistic number of them actually existed).

It's not clear why Patrushev is focusing on "73,000 from Ukraine" in this message, which could suggest that some either aren't from the Donbass or have not sufficiently proven their loyalty to the Russian state. Regardless, any large population of unemployed people without roots will be seen by the government as a problem for stability. Yet Russia has added to that population by its continued sponsorship of the war in Ukraine, which has aggravated its economic crisis.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick