How are 150 thousand Russian occupants hiding in villages of Zaporizhzhia region?


The Russian occupation army occupies houses of Ukrainians in cities and villages of Zaporizhzhia region. The Center for Journalist Investigations identified dozens of settlements where houses have been confiscated by Russian occupation administrations. Russian troops settle in houses of those Ukrainians who fled to the territory controlled by Ukraine. Or Russian military turn them into their potential strongholds.

The CJI keeps filling in its interactive online map with cities and villages of Zaporizhzhia region where the Russian occupation army has turned Ukrainian houses into its military positions. We received new data from various sources which confirms our initial hypothesis.

Current interactive map displays over 100 settlements near Melitopol and Tokmak. Almost half of them are located up to 50 kilometers away from Berdyansk.

By clicking any settlement, the user receives the link to addresses of houses which Russian occupation authorities considered as abandoned, confiscated and turned into barrack houses for Russian soldiers.

For example, the list includes 20 private houses in Andriivka village near Berdyansk. The village is an administrative center of the territorial community combining three rural settlements. The exact quantity of houses already occupied by Russian soldiers is unknown.

Russian occupants in Berdyansk, spring 2022. Photo of Russian propagandists

«We have information about confiscation of private houses in Andriivka village. We will know about confiscated houses in other villages after their liberation from Russian occupants. Now we can affirm that all administrative buildings were occupied by the Russian military», as told the CJI Deputy Head of Andriivka territorial community Viktor Derevyanko.

There are settlements in which all houses were «nationalized» \ confiscated by Russian occupants. For example, before the Russian occupation, 45 people have lived in 15 houses in Koza village in Berdyansk raion. Today all houses have been «nationalized».

There is Zorya village, 30 kilometers away from Koza village. All 86 houses have been declared by Russian authorities as abandoned. We are not aware about the destiny of almost 250 inhabitants who lived in the village.

Novopoltavka village is 5 kilometers to the east. At least, one third of the village, i.e. 117 houses, has been «liberated by the second army of the world». It means three hundred inhabitants of the village do not live there anymore.

There is a special category of settlements on our online map.  We received information about them from their inhabitants or from telegram channels.

Below are some stories of their residents:

«Today our relatives called us and reported that many Russian soldiers came to Mykolaivka and Osypenko. They are looking for empty houses with all amenities – like shower, toilet etc. When they find them, they settle in».

«There are many Russian soldiers in Schevchenkove village in Berdyansk raion. They take empty houses. Many occupants settled in the school. They walk around the village and tell that if people fled from the Russian occupation, then, their property and houses will be declared abandoned and nationalized».

Before the Russian invasion, there were approximately 70 thousand people in Berdyansk raion (without Berdyansk city).

Over 40% of population left Berdyansk raion, in accordance with the data of legitimate Berdyansk raion military administration. Information about expected counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and «evacuation» of people conducted by occupation authorities increased the number of refugees from raion. Consequently, the number of occupation troops has significantly grown.

Russian soldiers settle in «abandoned» private houses of Andriivka, Berestove, Chernihivka and Sofiivka territorial communities. 

There are not less than 150 thousand Russian soldiers in the occupied Ukrainian South, in accordance with the data of the Ukrainian intelligence service.

In Berdyansk raion, the ratio of Ukrainian civilians to the Russian military is one civilian to two and a half soldiers.

We did not take into account urban population of Berdyansk, Tokmak, Pology, Melitopol and surrounding villages.

Ukrainians under Russian occupation feel themselves as minority. Inhabitants of villages and cities complain that there are far more Russian soldiers on streets than local people.

«Under Russian occupation, villages of Berdyansk have suffered more than the city because Russian occupants occupied infrastructural objects as their first priority. Those were schools, hospitals etc. They occupied them for barrack houses or as warehouses for weapons and ammunition», as told Viktor Dudukalov, deputy head of Berdyansk raion council.

Ukrainians understand that they are human shield for the Russian occupation army. Promoted «evacuation» of civilians to Berdyansk has been used by the Russian military for rotating its troops, enforcing «filtering measures» and destroying evidence of its war crimes. Russians occupy houses because it is safer for them to reside there than in trenches.

In May, the Armed Forces of Ukraine shell daily Russian military positions in Pology or Tokmak. They also started to shell Russian military positions in Berdyansk raion.

Berestove, Andriivka, Dmytrivka, Tarasivka and Kamyanka villages have been mentioned in media reports as places of strikes of Ukrainian rockets. They are all present on our online map.

It has been recently reported that Russian occupants launched another «census» of the Ukrainian population on occupied territory of Zaporizhzhia region.

The reason is that Russians would like to shut up free flow of information from the occupied territories. Ukrainian witnesses inform the Armed Forces of Ukraine about movement of Russian troops and they report about Russian war crimes.