As far as migration is concerned, the occupation statistics shows almost zero migration growth for the occupied part of Donetsk region in 2015 and positive one in the following years: 2 thousand persons in 2016 and 5 more thousand persons in January-July 2017. But the number of those coming and those leaving is not mentioned, there is no data breakdown by the geographical directions of migration flows. Thus, the figures are not reliable. As far as the occupied part of Luhansk region is concerned, the occupation statistics does not provide any information on the migration growth at all, the same as about the natural population growth.
In April 2017 the official spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Maria Zakharova stated, referring to the data of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation, as of March 16, 2017, that in the territory of the RF there are 2.3 mln. Ukrainian citizens, of which refugees from Donbas make over 1 mln. In fact, the FMS of the RF was liquidated by Mr. Putin's order back in April 2016, and its functions were handed over to the Chief Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the RF. However, the figures were not affected by this. The FMS of the RF stated this data about a million of refugees also in summer 2015, but from all over Ukraine, and not only from Donbas. In February 2016 the Service told that out of this million 415 thousand persons were asking for a temporary asylum, 260 thousands more wanted to get the permission for temporary residence (issued for the period of three years with no prolongation entitlement), and 152 thousands got the Russian citizenship becoming the participants of the state program of voluntary compatriot resettlement.
In February 2017 the Chief Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the RF informed that in 2016 100 thousand Ukrainian citizens got Russian citizenship, including 75 thousands – as state program participants, and in general over 2014–16 192 thousand Ukrainian citizens became Russians (with no account of the Crimean residents who were all registered as Russian citizens). Two months later the above mentioned Office of the Ministry of Interior of the RF recognized that as of March 21, 2017 the number of Ukrainian citizens who had been granted the temporary asylum in the Russian Federation reduced to 234 thousands. These two categories in total make up 426 thousand persons, while the rest of the million mentioned by Zakharova can be considered overestimated.
The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine recoded the highest number of displaced persons on July 4, 2016: over 1,790 thousands. At the 'Political Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine' conference that took place on June 15, 2016 in Kyiv, deputy minister for occupied territories and internally displaced persons Heorhiy Tuka announced that, by the estimates of international organizations, only some 800 thousand displaced persons were staying in the Ukraine-controlled territories. According to Tuka, the study was conducted by the organizations which analyzed the increase of the load on educational institutions, maternity houses, etc. in the place of registration of displaced persons, as well as changes in the statistics of death rate and other indicators there.
Then the number of registered displaced persons went down, in particular, due to the fact that starting with July 1, 2016 all the pension payments for internally displaced persons were to be made via 'Oschadbank'. The Minister for Social Policy Andriy Reva informed back then that after the reconciliations made pension payments were terminated for half of displaced pensioners – 600 thousands out of 1,200 thousands. According to the Minister, 'these are the people who crossed the demarcation line with the territory not controlled by Ukraine, but to whom money was paid'.
On September 4, 2017 the Ministry of Social Policy informed that, according to the data of structural units of residents social security of regional and Kyiv city state administrations, 1,592 thousand persons displaced from Donbas and Crimea got registered (198 thousands less than the last-year maximum). 20 thousands of them were Crimean residents. The largest number of displaced persons live in the unoccupied part of Donbas (533 thousands) and Luhansk region (291 thousands). However, those figures run counter to the data provided by the State Statistics Service, according to which the population in the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions under Ukraine's control over 2014–16 did not only grow, but vice versa shrank by 73 thousand persons.
If we take 3,894 thousand persons in the now-occupied territories of Donbas as of January 1, 2014, deduct 1,572 thousand persons displaced from Donbas (with no account of Crimean residents), mentioned by the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, and the million of refugees to the RF Zakharova talks about, only 1,322 thousand persons are left, which is an unrealistically small figure. The figure seems to be closer to reality if we deduct from 3,894 thousands the same 800 thousands Tyka mentions, and still 426 thousands, which, according to the Ministry of Interior of the RF, have acquired the Russian citizenship or have received a temporary asylum in the RF. Then we get 2,668 thousands, which may be considered the lowest assessment of the real number of Ukrainian residents in the occupied territories of Donbas.
Most probably, among those who have gone to Russia, a considerable (if not the overwhelming) part is made up by the residents of the part of Donbas which is now controlled by Ukraine, as well as actors of the Yanukovych regime, participants of separatist riots in Kharkiv, Odesa, etc., who fled in the threat of imprisonment. One also cannot be sure of the 800 thousand displaced persons Tuka has mentioned, since the figure was calculated in a rather indirect way, besides that a lot of displaced persons who stay in the part of Donbas which remains under Ukraine's control regularly visit their homes located in the occupied territories.
For a more reliable assessment the mean of the above upper estimate (3,737 thousands) and the lower estimate (2,668 thousands) should be taken, that is 3,203 thousands, or the rounded figure of 3.2 mln. persons.