"Trust But Verify:" Analyzing Refugee Vehicle Movements in Eastern Ukraine

In partnership with The Global (Dis)Information Lab at The University of Texas at Austin and written by Zachary Daum, Raghav Aggarwal, Alefia Aziz Ali, Kiril Avramov, Varij Shah, and Taylor Ham
Latest
Low Activity at Russia-Ukraine Border Crossings
Impact
Possible Disinformation from Russian State Media
Published
May 24
2022
1 month, 1 week
Overview

Commercial satellite imagery analysis of the Russia-Ukraine border suggests that the Russian government may have inflated its claimed number of Ukrainian refugees entering Russia. The Kremlin likely boosted official statistics on accepted Ukrainian refugees to present a positive image of the war to Russian citizens and Russian speakers to justify operations in Ukraine.

Traffic volumes of commercial and civilian vehicles represent a proxy for indications of refugee flows out of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, most Russia-Ukraine border checkpoints have not seen a substantial increase in refugee inflows or traffic compared to border checkpoints in Western Ukraine. An accurate picture of the numbers of refugees can help other countries, NGOs, and relief organizations prioritize resources and areas where refugees are truly located.

Activity

The Global Disinformation Lab at the University of Texas at Austin used commercial satellite imagery and open reporting to study refugee movements in response to the war in Ukraine. This Tearline article analyzes seven border crossings on the Russia-Ukraine border, and one on the Poland-Ukraine border, for differences in traffic patterns indicative of refugees fleeing Ukraine. Imagery analysis shows that civilian and commercial traffic has not substantially increased and has largely decreased at the Russia-Ukraine border since the beginning of the war. While there are limitations to estimating accurate numbers for refugees with imagery, our evaluation shows that Russian state media has likely misreported the numbers of refugees entering the country since the beginning of the war. To determine this, we compared pre-war and current imagery of crossings along the Russia-Ukraine border for changes in activity. In addition, the imagery of the Ukrainian border with Poland acts as a baseline for expected refugee movements throughout this crisis.

Polish Border Crossing - Korczowa-Krakowiec

In order to establish a baseline for refugee activity after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we determined that a comparison needed to be made between claimed border crossings facilitating large movements of people. For Western Ukraine, Poland provides a case study. On March 18th, 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 42,273 refugees entered Poland through the six border crossings with Ukraine. Imagery analysis of the Korczowa-Krakowiec border crossing, one of the border crossings closest to UNHCR humanitarian centers, on that date shows a sizable queue of civilian and commercial vehicles. Using 13 images analyzed post-invasion, an average of 95 cars and 110 trucks can be observed crossing from Ukraine to Poland. This is in contrast to an average of 31 cars and 60 trucks pre-invasion from August 2018 to January 2021.

The activity at this checkpoint observed in imagery analysis corroborates the UNHCR's report. Furthermore, the evident increase in traffic in response to the refugee crisis acts as a baseline for traffic levels expected at Russia-Ukraine border checkpoints based on Russian state-backed media claims of incoming refugee numbers.

Russian Border Crossings

The Russian government and leadership of the breakaway regions claimed to have maintained 15 border crossings between the Rostov Region of the Russian Federation and the self-proclaimed “People's Republics” since the invasion of Ukraine. These include seven pedestrian, two railway, and six automobile crossings at Novoshakhtinsk, Chertkovo, and Donetsk (city in Rostov Oblast) near the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, as well as Kuibyshevo, Veselo-Voznesenka, and Matveev Kurgan near the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. Some reports have also included the Gukovo border crossing as an automobile and a rail crossing. Most Russian border crossings we analyzed showed relatively low civilian vehicle counts and a general lack of a crowded or busy appearance since the outbreak of the war. However, Russian state media has continuously emphasized the reportedly large flows of refugees from Ukraine, primarily towards the Rostov region in the southwest of the Russian Federation, which was the primary focus of our analysis of Ukraine-Russian border crossings.

Claim #1 - On March 26th, Border Service of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (PS FSB) reported that 16,000 civilians crossed from Donbas into the Rostov Region.

Russian Border Crossing - Kuibyshevo

Imagery analysis of the Kuibyshevo border from March 2020 to November 2021, exemplified by the November 18th, 2021 image, suggests a decrease in overall traffic volume following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as shown in the March 26th image. Before the invasion, there is consistent evidence of significant civilian and commercial traffic, primarily flowing from Ukraine into Russia. Before the invasion, images taken between March 2020 and November 2021, show an average of approximately 32 cars and 23 trucks over 20 images.

On March 26th, 2022, traffic levels dropped to approximately eight cars and zero trucks. As seen at the Polish crossing, if thousands of people were trying to cross the border on March 26th, we should expect to see queues of vehicles forming at Kuibyshevo. There is evidence of queuing at the border in April 2022; however, traffic levels remained far below pre-invasion traffic volumes, with 17 cars and approximately one truck seen on April 30th, 2022.

Russia Border Crossing - Matveev Kurgan

Imagery analysis of the Matveev Kurgan border from July 2020 to April 2021, exemplified by the September 2nd, 2020 image, further suggests a sharp decrease in traffic entering Russia from Ukraine relative to post-invasion levels, as exemplified in the March 26th image. Imagery post-invasion shows minimal traffic queuing at the border to enter Russia. We see an average of approximately 20 commercial trucks and 50 automobiles in the pre-invasion period analyzed, whereas those numbers drop to around eight trucks and less than ten cars on March 26th, 2022, which could carry roughly 100 people in a single day.1 The PS FSB reported over 16,000 civilians crossing into the Rostov region in a 24-hour period. Considering there are only seven open border crossings, it is unlikely the large Russian number could be reached while seeing such low traffic reflected at Matveev Kurgan. Some commercial traffic before the border crossing on the Russian side of the border is visible in the post-invasion imagery; however, we do not know if these vehicles have been parked for an extended period.

Claim #2 - Mikhail Mizintsev, chief of Russia's National Defense Management Center, claims 14,168 people and 3,300 private cars evacuated from Ukraine on April 1st, and 16,648 people and 2,805 private cars entered Russia from Ukraine on April 3rd.

Russian Border Crossing - Donetsk (Izvarino)

Imagery analysis from August 2019 to June 2021, exemplified by the July 3rd, 2020 image, showed an average of approximately 50 cars queued and two commercial trucks. On April 3rd, 2022, over a month after the initial invasion of Ukraine, we saw roughly half the previous traffic count at the Donetsk (Izvarino) border crossing with 24 automobiles and one truck visible on that day. At the same time, Russia's National Defense Management Center claimed that 2,805 automobiles had entered Russia.

Russian Border Crossing - Veselo-Voznesenka

The only border crossing with evidence of notable traffic levels post-invasion is at the Veselo-Voznesenka border crossing near the town of Maksimov, directly east of Mariupol, Ukraine. There were heavy fluctuations in traffic levels throughout the analyzed period of May 2020 to August 2021, ranging from one civilian automobile to 82 a week later. This inconsistency made determining baseline levels for this crossing more challenging. However, on April 6th, 2022, imagery shows traffic levels within historical bounds, with 23 trucks and 84 automobiles seen. These numbers suggest a modest influx of refugees from Mariupol but still do not account for the 15,000-20,000 refugees Russian authorities have claimed are entering the country on a daily basis, which is not evident throughout the imagery.

Additional Context:

Our analysis suggests that lower post-invasion activity trends continue to hold across the Chertkovo, Gukovo, and Novoshakhtinsk border crossings. Before analyzing each border crossing individually, it is important to note that these three border crossings are the farthest from the main population centers of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, such as the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Luhansk, Horlivka, Alchevsk, Khrustalnyi, and Makiivka. These include cities with populations over 50,000 people. Chertkovo was the only crossing located outside of the territory of the self-proclaimed People's Republics before the invasion. Based on this analysis, we expect with moderate confidence that fewer civilians would be traveling to these specific border crossings from Ukraine.

Chertkovo Border Crossing

Over a period from July 2020 to December 2020, there was at most one car and one truck observed in our imagery analysis. After the invasion, on March 13th, 15 cars and no trucks were observed. On April 11th, imagery displayed seven cars and no trucks crossing into Russia. Additionally, the border crossing at Chertkovo is located on a small, poorly maintained, two-lane road, which could be a bottleneck if large numbers of refugees were attempting to cross into Russia. This border crossing is also far removed from large urban population centers relative to the distance of other crossing points in the region. The nearest large city to this crossing is the city of Luhansk over 100 kilometers away compared to the crossing at Donetsk (Izvarino) at approximately 50 kilometers away (see map above).

Novoshakhtinsk Border Crossing

Over the period from February 2020 to October 2021, there was an average of 22 cars and 23 trucks. Only one cloudy image was available post-invasion, preventing any averages from being determined. However, queues of pre-invasion length were not observed in visible areas. Though this crossing has more developed infrastructure than the Chertkovo crossing, there are still bottlenecks, namely traffic being limited to one lane around crossing stations. This factor, along with Novoshakhtinsk's distance from major population centers, like Khrustalnyi or Dovzhansk, means it is unlikely that the volume of traffic is large enough to alter our thesis and align with substantial Russian claims. Larger traffic volumes would likely occur at closer crossings such as Kuibyshevo.

Gukovo Crossing

Imagery analysis over a period from March 2021 to September 2021 showed an average of 28 cars and 33 trucks. No imagery was available for analysis post-invasion. However, the Gukovo crossing is located between the Novoshakhtinsk and Donetsk (Izvarino) border crossings, with the nearest significant population center located at Dovzhansk with a population of approximately 62,000 people. For all other urban centers with over 50,000 people in Eastern Ukraine, like Khrustalnyi, Luhansk, and Alchevske, the Novoshakhtinsk or Donetsk border crossings would be closer to travel to via major highways, as can be seen in the map above. For this reason, we would expect minimal traffic at the Gukovo crossing, in line with what we have observed at the other crossings.

In total

With these seven border crossings considered, the number of refugees entering Russia from Ukraine after February 24th, 2022 is likely far short of the 1.2 million refugees claimed by the Russian government. This is evidenced by the minimal traffic at automobile border crossings between the Donbas region of Ukraine and the Rostov Oblast in the Russian Federation. It is important to note that there are multiple alternative methods for evacuating refugees and evacuees: pedestrian (for immediate vicinity to operational border checkpoints) and air and rail transportation. However, it is well-established that air transportation over Ukraine has been closed to all commercial air traffic since the Russian invasion. As for the possibility of evacuations by rail transportation, we next analyzed imagery of the Port of Mariupol. Lastly, pedestrian foot traffic analysis with imagery can prove difficult unless people are bunched in large crowds or long lines. No crowds or lines were observed.

Ukraine Port - Mariupol

Large numbers of refugees were claimed to evacuate Mariupol due to the intense concentration of fighting en route towards Russia, according to TASS (a Russian state-owned news agency). To augment our previous analysis of automobile activity at the nearby Veselo-Voznesenka crossing, we decided to look at alternative methods of leaving Mariupol. As noted, there were two possible railway crossings from Ukraine to the Rostov region in Russia. We chose to briefly analyze railway activity at the Port of Mariupol prior and post-invasion due to its prominence in the conflict. Based on activity at the rail station at the Port of Mariupol, we see no movement in rail traffic for the duration of the war. Most rail lines have been blocked for a significant duration since the start of the war.

Concluding Analysis of Russian State and State-Affiliated Media Claims and Imagery Evidence

The Russian invasion of Ukraine created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in modern-day Europe, with over 6.3 million people displaced since February 24th, 2022. Additionally, the UNHCR has reported, based on data from the Russian government, that 105,000 people crossed into Russia from Donbas between February 18th and February 24th, 2022. Since the beginning of the war, most Russia-Ukraine border checkpoints have not seen a substantial increase in refugee inflows (represented by crowded or busy-looking vehicle activity on imagery) compared to border checkpoints in Western Ukraine.

Based on official reporting by the Russian state or state-affiliated media and imagery analysis of border crossing points between Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and Poland, it becomes fairly apparent that traffic activity between Ukraine and Russia has been modest. Despite the official claims of the Russian government, it is likely the number of people leaving Ukraine for Russia post-February 24th might be significantly smaller than the 1.2 million refugees claimed by Russia state-backed media outlets. We assess with moderate confidence that the refugee numbers may be overstated based on the observed low activity at the border.

According to TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency, Russia has accepted over 1.1 million Ukrainian refugees as of May 4th. However, based on imagery analysis, official Russian statistics on Ukrainian refugees may be inflated, and authorities may be deliberately conflating the numbers prior and post-invasion in accounting for the total numbers of refugees and evacuees since April 2014 and not only since February 2022. The Russian authorities may be using this “small print" public maneuver for dramatic effect to present a more positive image of the war to Russian-speaking audiences. The Kremlin also may be utilizing this strategy to bolster the support for the invasion and fortify the framing of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine as innocent victims whose suffering and pleas at the hands of a neo-Nazi regime since 2014 justify the Russian intervention currently. Simultaneously, such claims aim to evoke sympathy, solidarity, and fortification of the support base and infrastructure in border regions, such as Rostov oblast, and ultimately “rally around the flag” effects supporting Putin's decision to attack Ukraine.

Our analysis concentrated on TASS's English reports because their articles covered refugee and evacuee movements in a fairly consistent periodic manner and included numbers that could be fact-checked against imagery. Other Russian state-affiliated news outlets, such as Channel One Russia and RIA Novosti, made broad claims and reporting relied on aggregate numbers, which were harder to use in our analysis. TASS is also the largest and most well-known news agency in Russia, registered as a Federal State Unitary Enterprise. The Government of Russia owns business entities registered with this title, thus making TASS a state-owned news agency. Along with Russia Today and RIA Novosti, the U.S. State Department identified TASS as a critical player in the Russian government's disinformation and propaganda ecosystem. Throughout the invasion of Ukraine, publications by TASS have aligned with Kremlin-backed narratives to promote the conflict to Russian citizens. These narratives generally portray Ukraine and Western governments as instigators of the conflict, the Russian Armed Forces as a liberating force, and Ukrainian civilians as welcoming Russia's intervention.

Notes

  1. We assumed an average of five people per vehicle crossing the border. We over-estimated the number of people that can reasonably fit into a truck cab but believe even with this over-estimate, it highlights the likely over-estimated nature of Russian claims. Moreover, this is based on a snapshot in imagery and the count could likely increase with more collection, but we wanted to supply the reader with a simple, estimated vehicle-to-people conversion.
  • May 12, 2022

    Over 19,500 people evacuated to Russia from Donbass, Ukraine in past day

    According to Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the total number of evacuees is now 1,237,256 people, including 215,583 children. 19,575 people, including 4,006 children were evacuated in the past 24 hours. A total of 165,876 personal vehicles have crossed the Russian border, with 7,810 in the past 24 hours. He also reiterates his past claim that over 9,500 temporary shelters across Russia are in operation.
    Source(s): TASS

  • May 11, 2022

    Source reveals how many people arrived in Russia from Ukraine and Donbass

    An unnamed source in the "power structures" (Russian term describing the Russian security apparatus) describe claims that the total is more than 1,200,000 people, including 211,000 children. 523 shelters in 53 Russian regions are accommodating 34,000 people, including 11,000 children. They also claim that internally displaced persons in Russia will continue to receive lump-sum allowances of 10,000 rubles (145.70 USD) per person. 1.846 billion rubles have already been paid, with pensioners and state employees in Ukraine receiving more than 107 million rubles.
    Source(s): TASS

  • May 10, 2022

    Almost 9,000 people were evacuated from Ukraine and Donbass in a day

    Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev reports a total of 1,208,225 people, including 210,224 children, with 8,787 people, including 1,106 children, in the past 24 hours. 156,651 personal vehicles have passed through the border, including 1,887 over the past day. He also reiterates his past claims that there are more than 9,500 temporary shelters across Russia. His evacuation request database logs a total of 2,755,224 appeals from 2,135 settlements.
    Source(s): TASS

  • May 5, 2022

    UNHCR claims that 728,000 refugees crossed into Russia

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that around 728,000 refugees have transited into Russia. This number is in conflict with TASS's article from May 4th, which claims that over 1. 1 million refugees have crossed into Russia. TASS even reports UNHCR's number, only to reassert that there are 1.2 million refugees in a subsequent article.
    Source(s): United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , TASS

  • May 4, 2022

    Over 1.1 mln people arrive in Russia from Donbass, Ukraine, source says

    According to an unnamed source in the security agencies, over 1. 1 million people, including 200,000 children, have crossed into Russia, with more than 12,000 in the past 24 hours. 200,000 are claimed to be Russian citizens, more than 608,000 of the DPR or LPR, and the rest of Ukraine and other states. 508 temporary accommodation facilities in 52 Russian regions are sheltering 33,000 refugees.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 27, 2022

    Ukraine, Donbass refugees fleeing to Russia top 1 million, source says

    According to an unnamed law enforcement source, more than a million people, including 182,000 children, have fled since the beginning of the conflict
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 26, 2022

    Over 10,000 people evacuated to Russia from DPR, LPR, Ukraine in past day

    According to Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the refugee total is now 985,949 people, including 178,814 children. 10,715, including 1,723 children, were evacuated in the past 24 hours. A total of 129,025 personal vehicles crossed the Russian border, including 1,539 in the past 24 hours. He also repeats his past claim that 9,500 temporary shelters were in operation.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 25, 2022

    The number of refugees from Ukraine and Donbass who arrived in Russia approached 1 million

    According to an unnamed law enforcement source, the refugee total was over 974,000 people, including 178,000 children. Of this number, 268,000 are Russian citizens, 540,000 are citizens of the DPR and LPR, and 166,000 are citizens of other countries. 490 shelters across 48 Russian regions are accommodating 33,000 people, including 11,000 children. Over 117,000 people received lump-sum payments of 10,000 rubles from the Russian Government.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 21, 2022

    Over 915,000 people arrive in Russia from Ukraine, DPR, LPR

    According to an unnamed law enforcement official, the total is now more than 915,000 people, including nearly 170,000 children. 15,000 to 20,000 are said to cross the border every day. 483 shelters across 46 Russian regions are accommodating 33,000 people, including 11,000 kids.
    Additionally, he claims that five tent camps have been set up in Crimea, Belgorod, and Rostov in close proximity to the border. The exact locations were not given.

    Source(s): TASS

  • April 21, 2022

    Russian army, DPR forces take every measure to protect civilians in Mariupol

    Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reports that 142,711 civilians have been evacuated from Mariupol, "despite resistance from militants". He also claims that Russia has maintained contact with Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk, the UNHCR, and the Red Cross regarding its humanitarian activities.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 19, 2022

    Source reveals how many people arrived in Russia from Donbass and Ukraine

    According to the "power structures", the refugee total is now more than 878,000 people, including 164,000 children, with 17,800 crossing in the past 24 hours. 713,000 are from Donbass, while the rest came from the territory of Ukraine. 480 shelters in 45 Russian regions are accommodating 33,000 people.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 17, 2022

    Most refugees from Donbass, Ukraine accommodated in eight regions of Russia - Ministry

    According to the Ministry of the Interior, the total is now 845,000 refugees. 32,000, including 12,000 children, are in temporary accommodation centers, with the rest finding their own accommodation. "A significant number" have been accommodated in Volgograd, Voronezh, Kursk, Oryol, Penza, Rostov, Saratov, and Ulyanovsk Regions.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 15, 2022

    Source reveals how many people arrived in Russia from Donbass and Ukraine

    According to the "power structures", the refugee total is more than 808,000 people, including 153,000 children. About 20,000 people cross each day. 472 shelters in 45 regions accommodate 32,000 refugees.
    New information not previously given is that 657,000 people had crossed through Rostov checkpoints, 74,000 through Crimea, 64,500 through Belgorod, 10,500 through Bryansk, and 1,500 through Kursk.

    Source(s): TASS

  • April 14, 2022

    Source reveals how many people arrived in Russia from Donbass and Ukraine

    According to the "power structures", the refugee total is now more than 790,000 people, including more than 150,000 children, with 18,600 arriving in the past day. 200,000 are Russian citizens, more than 440,000 are citizens of the DPR and LPR, and over 128,000 are citizens of Ukraine and other states. About 20,000 cross the border every day. 469 temporary shelters across 43 regions are accommodating 32,000 people, including 12,000 children.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 6, 2022

    Over 630,000 refugees arrive in Russia from Ukraine, Donbass — source

    An unnamed law enforcement source reports that the total number of refugees in Russia is around 634,000 people, including 124,000 children. They include 182,000 Russian nationals, 360,000 DPR and LPR citizens, and 91,000 foreigners. 431 temporary accommodation centers across 39 Russian regions are hosting 29,000 people, including 11,000 children.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 4, 2022

    Over 16,600 people evacuated from Ukraine, DPR, LPR to Russia in past day

    According to Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the total is now 602,106 people, including 119,847 children. In the past day, 16,648 people, including 2,442 children had crossed. Some 2805 private cars had also crossed in the past day, bringing the total to 72,800. 1,784 people were evacuated via humanitarian corridors from Mariupol, bringing the total number of Mariupol evacuees to 125,616. His database of evacuation requests received 1,174 in the past day, with a total of 2,737,109 names and addresses from 2,124 settlements in Ukraine.
    Source(s): TASS

  • April 4, 2022

    Crimea discloses how many Ukrainian refugees it welcomed from special operation’s onset

    Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the region Leonid Mikhailevsky claims that Crimea has registered more than 34,000 citizens. More than 4,000 have requested one-time financial assistance of 10,000 rubles (118 USD) from the Crimean government, and 3,000 applications were redirected to Rostov. 700 refugees are in temporary accommodation centers in Crimea, with almost half being children.
    He also claims that more than 140 people signed up for an employment service program, with only 12 wishing to be employed. 4 have been interviewed by employers, and 2 have received unemployment status. He adds that the Republic of Crimea is the only Russian regional transit point with mobile offices of the employment service to support incoming refugees.

    Source(s): TASS

  • April 2, 2022

    At least 14,168 evacuated from Ukraine, Donbass to Russia in past day — Defense Ministry

    According to Colonel General Mizintsev, 14,168 people, including 891 children, were evacuated in the past 24 hours without the aid of Ukraine, the UN, and the Red Cross. The total is now 557,565 people, including 111,870 children. A total of 69,367 private vehicles have crossed into Russia, and 3,300 in the past 24 hours. He also claims that 121,497 people left Mariupol via a humanitarian corridor, with 2,464 in the past 24 hours.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 31, 2022

    Number of people evacuated to Russia from Donbass and Ukraine approached 500,000 — source

    According to law enforcement agencies, the refugee total in Russia is now 530,000 people, including 107,000 children. 37,000 people crossed the Russian border over the past day.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 29, 2022

    Number of arrivals in Russia from Ukraine and Donbass rises to almost 490,000

    According to security agencies, over 489,000 people, including 100,000 children, have arrived from DPR, LPR, and Ukraine. 411,000 crossed the border from Donbass and about 78,000 crossed through checkpoints in Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, and Crimea. In the last 24 hours, crossings have increased by 16,600 people. On average, more than 15,000 cross daily. Over 24,000 refugees, including more than 10,000 children, are in 355 temporary settlements in 34 Russian regions.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 26, 2022

    Authorities reveal 16,000 DPR-LPR refugees cross into Russia’s Rostov Region in past day

    According to the FSB's Border Guard Service, 16,000 people had crossed through checkpoints in the Rostov Region in the past 24 hours. In the previous 24 hours, 16,000 more people had crossed.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 25, 2022

    Source reveals over 422,000 evacuees arrived in Russia from Donbass, Ukraine

    According to an unnamed source in the security agencies, the refugee total is now 422,000, including 88,000 children. 358,000 arrived from the DPR and LPR, and the remaining 64,000 arrived through checkpoints in Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, and Crimea. 132,000 are Russian citizens, while the rest are DPR, LPR, Ukrainian, or of foreign nationality. 22,000 refugees are now housed in 348 temporary accommodation centers across 34 Russian regions.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 23, 2022

    Flow of evacuees to Russia from Ukraine, Donbass doubles — emergencies minister

    According to Emergencies Minister Alexander Chupriyan, 15,000 refugees cross daily, compared to 8,000 before. Now, 380,000 refugees, including 80,000 children have arrived. More than 15,000, including 5,000 children, have been moved by train to 20 different regions. 345 temporary accommodation centers across Russia host 21,000 people, including 9,000 children. Rostov alone houses 6,000. Additionally, according to the Ministry, 8,000 personnel and 2,000 vehicles are involved in the evacuation operation.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 23, 2022

    Almost 400,000 people arrived in Russia from Donbass and Ukraine — Minister

    About 400,000 refugees are in Russia, according to the Minister of Emergency Situations. No additional specification was given.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 22, 2022

    Over 19,400 people evacuated from Ukraine, DPR, LPR to Russia in past day

    According to Mizintsev, 19,442 people, including 3,448 children, were evacuated in the past day. The total is now 366,182 people, including 77,062 children. 2,895 private cars also crossed the border in the past day, bringing the total to 43,287 cars. He also claims the existence of 9,500 temporary accommodation centers.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 22, 2022

    Russian Railways transported over 16,000 refugees from Donbass — CEO

    Russian Railways CEO claims that 16,000 refugees, including 5,500 children, were evacuated into Rostov via train.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 22, 2022

    More than 360 thousand people arrived in Russia from the territory of Ukraine and Donbass since February 18

    According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the total is now more than 360,000 people, with 16,000 crossing in the past day. About 22,000 are settled in temporary accommodation centers. A third of recent arrivals received lump-sum payments
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 21, 2022

    Over 16,000 people evacuated by Russia from Ukraine, DPR, LPR — ministry

    According to Mizintsev, 16,054 people, including 4,631 children, were evacuated in the past day. Since the beginning of the conflict, 346,740 people, including 73,614 children have been evacuated. 1,867 private cars crossed the border in the past day alone, and 40,392 since the beginning of the operation. He also says that more than 9,500 temporary accommodation centers are operating in Russia.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 20, 2022

    Over 16,400 people evacuated by Russia from Ukraine, DPR, LPR — ministry

    According to Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, around 16,434 people, including 3,389 children, were evacuated in the past day. Since the beginning of the conflict, 330,686 people, including 68,983 children, have been evacuated. Additionally, nearly 1,815 cars crossed the Russian border in the past day, and 38,525 since the beginning of the conflict. Mizintsev also claims that his database of refugees requesting Russian help has 2,711,319 names and addresses from 2,093 settlements in Ukraine, with 5,117 in the past day alone. 9,500 temporary accommodation centers are operating in Russia. Mizintsev also claims that Ukrainian Neo-Nazis are holding 4.5 million civilians and 6,838 foreigners as a human shield. Crews of 70 ships from 15 countries are staying in blocked seaports in Ukraine.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 20, 2022

    Over 4.5 mln civilians kept by Ukrainian neo-Nazis as human shield — defense ministry

    TASS article quotes Russian Defense Ministry's rhetoric that "Ukrainian nationalists" and "Neo-Nazis" are using over 4. 5 civilians as human shields in large cities. Ukrainian forces in Mariupol are organizing mass terror across the city after feeling a sense of abandonment by Kiev officials, according to Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Misintsev (dubbed the "Butcher of Mariupol").
    He also reports that there are 9,500 temporary accommodation centers operating across Russia.

    Source(s): TASS , Washington Post - Mizintsev as Butcher of Mariupol

  • March 16, 2022

    13 more buses with some 300 refugees from Mariupol reach Russian border

    According to the Russian Defence Ministry, thirteen buses with about 300 people have crossed into Rostov from Mariupol. In total, four convoys of 200 buses have been organized to evacuate people from Mariupol. Earlier in the morning, two busses with 59 refugees had crossed into Rostov. They were placed in a temporary accommodation center in Taganrog.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 16, 2022

    Over 31,000 civilians leave Mariupol via safe passages in past day — Defense Ministry

    In the past 24 hours, 31,367 civilians, including 89 foreigners, were evacuated from Mariupol. According to Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, 271,231 people, including 58,422 children, have been evacuated. In the past day, 12,440 people, including 2,242 children were evacuated all across Ukraine. Mizintsev also accuses Ukrainian forces of firing on refugee convoys along humanitarian corridors.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 14, 2022

    Source reveals nearly 250,000 evacuees from Donbass, Ukraine took refuge in Russia

    According to the "power structures" 247,000 DPR, LPR, and Ukraine evacuees crossed the Russian border, and about 55,000 of them are children. 215,000 of them came from DPR and LPR, and the remaining 32,000 came via checkpoints in Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, and Crimea. Most refugees did not apply for help with accommodation. There are also 288 temporary shelters in 31 regions of Russia with 19,000 people, including 9,500 children.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 7, 2022

    More than 2 million people asked Russia for evacuation - Defense Ministry

    According to the Russian Interagency Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian Relief in Ukraine, 2 million people have asked Russia for evacuation between March 5th and March 7th. The number comes from appeals of foreign embassies and direct requests from Ukrainian citizens in all populated areas.
    Source(s): TASS

  • March 6, 2022

    Some 181,500 refugees from Donbass, Ukraine arrive in Russia

    According to TASS, an unnamed "representative of the power structures" reports that 181,500 refugees have arrived from Donbass and Ukraine, including 162,500 DPR and LPR residents. According to the source, arrivals include almost 48,000 children and 12,000 foreigners. 18,300 DPR and LPR residents are at temporary accommodation centers in 25 regions. Another 20,000 people were evacuated through checkpoints in Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk regions as well as Crimea.
    Source(s): TASS

  • Feb. 24, 2022

    Start of Invasion - Putin Announces Special Military Operation in Ukraine


    Source(s): President of Russia

  • Feb. 22, 2022

    Nearly 100,000 people evacuated to Russia from Donbass over past three days

    According to Russian Senator from Rostov, Andrey Yatskin, about 100,000 people from DPR and LPR have crossed into Rostov. They are mostly children, women, and the elderly.
    Source(s): TASS

  • Feb. 21, 2022

    Minister reveals how many Donbass refugees arrived in Russia following evacuation

    Russian Emergencies Ministry reports a total of 61,000 Donbass residents in Russia. Nine trains with refugees from Donbass were sent from the Rostov Region to other Russian regions.
    Source(s): TASS

  • Feb. 21, 2022

    Vladimir Putin Officially Recognizes Independence of Donetsk and Luhansk

    Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognizes the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. He also signs a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with leaders of both regions.
    Source(s): President of Russia

  • Feb. 20, 2022

    Minors account for over 40% of those evacuated from Donbass to Rostov region

    Rostov Governor Vasily Golubev reports that there are more than 6,700 refugees, including 2,904 children, at temporary accommodation centers. President Putin has decreed to pay lump-sum allowances of 10,000 rubles (129.40 USD) to refugees from Donbass.
    Source(s): TASS

  • Feb. 20, 2022

    First Train with Refugees from Donbass arrives in Voronezh

    TASS reports from the Voronezh-1 railway station of 500 people arriving by train from Rostov. They will be placed in temporary accommodation centers. LPR and DPR report some of the most intensive shelling by Kiev forces in recent months, damaging civilian facilties.
    Source(s): TASS

  • Feb. 19, 2022

    Russian region declares emergency amid influx of refugees

    Vasily Golubev, Governor of Rostov region declares a state of emergency as DPR and LPR begin evacuations across the border. Golubev says that nearly 1,700 refugees from Eastern Ukraine, including 737 children, have been accommodated.
    However, DPR officials claim 6,600 people were evacuated, including 24,000 children. LPR claims it's in the process of evacuating 10,000 people, and 25,000 more have already left on their own.

    Source(s): Russia Today

  • Feb. 18, 2022

    First Refugees from Eastern Ukraine Arrive in Russia

    According to Russia Today, the first group of refugees from the Donbass Region arrived in Russia. 80 buses have already arrived in the Rostov Region which borders Ukraine. Authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk breakaway regions claim that Ukrainian Army is planning "breakthrough" operation into Donbass. According to Donetsk Peoples' Republic, 700,000 people are due to be evacuated.
    Source(s): Russia Today

Refugee Total over Time

Original Work by GDIL

Source: download structured data of TASS claims

Vehicle Total and Daily Reports over Time

Original Work by GDIL

Source: download structured data of TASS claims

About The Authors

Zachary Daum

Undergraduate Student at the University of Texas, Research Assistant at the Global (Dis)Information Lab

Raghav Aggarwal

Undergraduate Student at The University of Texas, Research Assistant at the Global (Dis)Information Lab

Alefia Aziz Ali

Undergraduate Student at the University of Texas, Research Assistant at the Global (Dis)Information Lab

Kiril Avramov

Director of the Global (Dis)Information Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Assistant Professor at the Department of Slavic & Eurasian Studies, UT-Austin.

Varij Shah

Undergraduate Student at the University of Texas, Research Assistant at the Global (Dis)Information Lab

Taylor Ham

Graduate Student at The University of Texas, Research Assistant at the Global (Dis)Information Lab

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Methodologies Reviewed by NGA

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