Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the russian federation, internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, as well as Crimea and Sevastopol, who have been living in Ukraine-controlled territories for many years, have faced new challenges. We are talking about additional and more thorough checks at checkpoints, as well as close attention from law enforcement agencies.
"The factor of "Donetsk registration of residence" has surfaced again. I thought we have already put it behind us. But no, the sidelong glances have returned. The policeman opens a passport, sees Luhansk written there and it's as if a light bulb lights up in his head", - IDP from Luhansk Vladyslav says.
He recalls how he moved from Luhansk to Kyiv in 2014, and how difficult it was to find a job and housing.
"It was like a quest. It was easier with work, since I have a fairly demanded and highly paid IT profession. The only problems were with registering as a private entrepreneur, since it is connected to place of registration. Though I managed to figure it out. Finding housing was the most problematic. Realtors practically hung up when they heard that I had a Luhansk registration. I had to raise the budget and pay in cash in dollars - it was preferred back then. My bank also blocked my credit limit, demanded a certificate from work, some other documents. In general, it took me several months to assimilate", - the internally displaced person recalls.
After February 24, 2022, Vladyslav had similar problems once again.
"They began to look at me as a potential saboteur and warmonger. Additional checks, difficulties in finding new housing and banking difficulties have returned again", - he says.
OstroV tried to figure out what problems IDPs with registration of residence in the occupied territories face and what the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine has to say about it.
Problems of IDPs
On the tenth day of russia's full-scale invasion, an OstroV journalist with a Crimean registration personally faced "special treatment" because of his registration in the occupied territory.
At one of the checkpoints in Lviv, when checking documents, which all passing citizens were subjected to, a TDF (Territorial Defense Forces) officer noticed a registration in Sevastopol.
"At first, he asked several times where the passport was issued, where I am registered and where I live nowadays. He was not satisfied with the answer that I am registered in Sevastopol, which was illegally annexed by the russian federation in 2014, and that for the last ten years, I have been living and working in Kyiv", - the journalist says.
After that, the TDF officer asked to see the contents of the phone, pockets and backpack. When he accidentally saw a press ID, he breathed a sigh of relief, stopped checking and let the journalist go.
"Why didn't you say that you were a journalist at once?", - he asked.
When I asked what would have happened if the person hadn't been a media employee, he just shrugged and said: "You do understand what times we live in nowadays".
This case could be explained by the first days of a full-scale war, when saboteurs and gun layers of russian missiles seemed to be everywhere, but after a while, the situation did not improve much.
In October 2022, IDP from Mariupol Andriy traveled from Kyiv to Irpin in taxi on business matters. Police officers stopped the car at the checkpoint and asked all passengers to show their IDs. When the police officer saw the Mariupol registration, she immediately began to ask Andriy whether he had been living in Kyiv for a long time, when he was in his hometown for the last time, whether his relatives remained there and whether he communicates with them.
"I expected various questions, but not about my family members. My whole family stayed in Mariupol, and, unfortunately, they support the actions of the russian invaders. What should I do in this case? I don't know what it may lead to if I tell the truth, but I didn't want to deceive either. Eventually, I told that I hadn't talked to them for a long time. Police also asked me what I do in Kyiv, what my job is and whether I was registered with the military. After that, they let me go", - he told OstroV.
He also emphasized that the issue of military registration is brought up not for the first time when communicating with law enforcement officers. In September, while passing through a checkpoint in the Lviv oblast, he was told that, as an IDP from the occupied territory, he was obliged to register with the military within seven days.
"The serviceman at the checkpoint strongly emphasized that I was an internally displaced person from occupied Mariupol and by law, I am obliged to register with the military registration and enlistment office. I don't mind, but why put so much emphasis on the fact that I am an IDP? Is it stated by the law? As it turned out, no. This is another form of discrimination", - he said.
The Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories officially announced that the IDPs must be registered with the military within seven days after moving to a new place of residence.
"If you are between 18 and 60 years old, you have left your home and are liable for military service, you must be registered with the military at the new place of actual residence. This must be done within 7 days after your arrival", - the message of the Ministry of Reintegration reads under the heading "IDPs liable for military service: do you need to register with the military registration and enlistment office, and who is exempt from mobilization?".
Indeed, according to the Procedure for organizing and maintaining military registration, all conscripts, those liable for military service and reservists, in the event of a change in address or other personal data, are required to personally notify the Territorial Centres of Recruitment and Social Support (military registration and enlistment office) within 7 days, that is, to become registered with the military at the new place of residence. Of course, this rule also applies to internally displaced persons, but does not single them out as a separate category. Thus, any Ukrainian who does not live at the place of their registration is obliged to personally notify the military registration and enlistment office about this within seven days after changing their place of residence.
"Why was my friend, who was with me during the document check and who is registered in Sumy, was not told to register with the military in Kyiv, but I, as an IDP from Mariupol, was singled out? Isn't this discrimination?", - he asks.
By the way, when Andriy was going back from Irpin to Kyiv through another checkpoint, the car was not even stopped. According to the taxi driver, the checks and their intensity directly depend on the checkpoint and the shift that is on duty there.
"This is a lottery. They can just let you through, like today, or they can check the phone and bags", - the taxi driver explained.
Another issue is cars with Donetsk and Luhansk license plates. Several IDPs told OstroV that their cars and passengers were subjected to additional checks only because of those license plates.
"It was in the middle of summer. We drove by car from Kyiv to Lviv and passed many checkpoints. Most of the cars just passed through or provided the bare minimum of documents, but we were subjected to intense questioning several times. Our phone and personal belongings were not checked, but the documents were checked thoroughly. They also asked a few questions about where we live and work, whether we went to the occupied territories. Everything was done quickly and calmly, but the feeling of this special attitude and being perceived as suspicious remained", - IDP from the Donetsk oblast Mykhailo told us.
OstroV reader Volodymyr also complained that he is often stopped at checkpoints because of the Donetsk license plate.
"I was internally displaced twice. I have an apartment in Donetsk and a house in Kramatorsk. All these years, they constantly check me at checkpoints. Now it's getting ridiculous. Today, in addition to checking my documents and a car, they demanded my phone by force and rummaged in it. How many times can you check us? I have to drive around very often and there are several checks a day. For everyone, Donetsk license plates are a signal to immediately stop the car and check it. And this is the policy of the state, which has made its citizens typical suspects on a geographical basis. I perceive this as discrimination. It has been happening for nine years", - he wrote.
Donetsk and Luhansk registration of residence also began to cause negative connotations in everyday life after February 24, 2022. IDP from Luhansk Vladyslav, whose situation was discussed at the beginning of the article, left Kyiv for Lviv and began to look for an apartment to rent immediately after the full-scale invasion of the russian federation. Considering huge demand at the time, this turned out to be a difficult task, and Luhansk registration made it even harder.
"Even the budget increase did not always work. Local realtors immediately asked about registration, and by the change of their tone, I realized that it did not bode well for me. While viewing the first apartment, the owner looked incredulously at my registration and began to ask when I left Luhansk, what is my job, whether I have a certificate proving that I constantly live and work in the controlled territory of Ukraine. He added that if I live in his apartment, he will have to tell the local TDF about me. In the end, he refused me. The realtor just shrugged and said that there could be problems. Since then, we have always shown an IDP certificate with the indication of my Kyiv address alongside the Luhansk registration. This smoothed out the problem", - he said.
He also advises all IDPs, who have a Donetsk or Luhansk registration in their passports and who have an IDP certificate, to generate an electronic document in the Diia app and present it at checkpoints and other checks. The fact is that the e-document shows the place of residence, which is indicated in the IDP certificate. Thus, according to him, you can avoid unnecessary questions and additional checks.
"A police or a TDF officer sees that the city of Kyiv is indicated there, it suits him. It will take longer with a physical passport", - the IDP notes.
What does the Ministry of Internal Affairs say
At the request of OstroV, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine noted that the information about a more thorough check at checkpoints of persons with registration of residence in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as vehicles with license plates of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine is not true.
At the same time, in a commentary to OstroV, police officers reported that Ukrainians, who are registered in the occupied territories (especially Crimea, the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts) really get special attention from law enforcement officers. Policemen receive such instructions informally at general meetings.
"Yes, there is such a practice. This was especially obvious at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of russia. Indeed, we were told informally which categories of persons and vehicles should be subjected to enhanced checks. This is normal practice. Then the list included not only people from Donetsk and Luhansk registration, there were other indicators. But the registration factor remained. Why? It is just the simplest and most obvious indicator - you look at the passport, see the registration and go through the list of questions and checks. But I want to emphasize that no one gave instructions to be rude to such people. We simply let go a lot of them after asking a couple of questions. There are different cases, people should treat this with understanding", - an employee of the Kyiv National Police told OstroV on condition of anonymity.
IDP from Donetsk Kostiantyn, who moved to Kyiv long before the start of a full-scale invasion, lives in the capital and works in Brovary. Every day he drives through a checkpoint that stands on the city border in a car with Donetsk license plate. And every day, it is his car that is stopped. He already knows the officers stationed there by sight, and they know him. But still: a requirement to stop, silly questions, same type of answers and "understanding". He has little choice. Especially because in 2014 it was even worse. Having left his native city, where it was dangerous to live with a pro-Ukrainian position, the IDP searched for housing. He called an ad in one of the Western Ukrainian cities with a question whether it was possible to rent a house till autumn (then everyone believed that everything would end in autumn). "Better order yourself a coffin", - the kind-hearted compatriot answered...
Andriy Andrieyev, OstroV