Half of veterans of eastern Ukraine conflict report biased attitudes – EU project’s survey

23 January 2020

Almost half of the veterans (49%) of the conflict in eastern Ukraine have reported biased attitudes or unfair treatment by different members of their communities, mainly in public transport, medical and social protection institutions, according to the results of a study presented in Kyiv on January 23. The study highlighted that 32% of veterans feel excluded from society, and 73% think that their experience can be understood only by those who have a military background themselves.

The study was funded by the European Union and conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the support of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine as part of the project “Reintegration Support for Veterans of the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine and Their Families”. It pinpointed the challenges veterans of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and their families face in reintegrating into civilian life, based on a survey of 2,530 respondents interviewed in Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv and Kyiv regions, and the city of Kyiv, from July to October 2019.

“The EU is very pleased to have funded this survey. The results help authorities to understand better and to address the challenges that veterans face after they return from the battlefield,” said Ambassador Matti Maasikas, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine.

“Guided by the principle ‘nothing for the veterans without veterans’, we deeply value such studies as they allow us to implement data-based programmes and policies,” stated Oksana Koliada, the Minister of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine. 

According to the official data, there are about 370,000 veterans of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, many of whom encounter significant hurdles during reintegration into civilian life. One third of the men and almost half of the women who are veterans of this conflict and had a job before military service returned home to find that they were no longer employed at their previous place of work, the survey shows. While many veterans eventually found paid jobs (67%) or started their own business or registered as private entrepreneurs (11%), others cited a need for re-training and support in finding income opportunities. They depicted a difficult employment landscape, where there was low pay for available vacancies (79%), a lack of vacancies commensurate with the veterans’ qualification (44%), and discrimination against veterans (24%). Only 6% of the veterans received a disability certificate, but another quarter reported sustaining injuries or falling ill during their military service and being unable to receive one due to red tape.

“IOM is committed to supporting the reintegration of veterans and the well-being of their communities through socioeconomic recovery and psychosocial support that contribute to the restoration of trust, social cohesion and stability,” said Anh Nguyen, Chief of Mission at IOM Ukraine. “Through generous funding from the European Union, we have been able to support almost 800 veterans with training and equipment to master a new profession, start or develop their own small business.”

The EU-funded project “Reintegration Support for Veterans of the Conflict in Eastern Ukraine and Their Families”, launched in January 2019, is implemented by IOM in three pilot regions: Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv, and lasts until June 2020. The project supports social cohesion activities, such as sporting events, master classes, and round tables with representatives of local authorities. Qualified psychological assistance is provided by professionals, who completed trainings on psychosocial support for veterans and their families. The project also offers career development and self-employment training, which lead to grants of up to EUR 1,000 for equipment. A public campaign will be launched within the project at the end of winter to tackle the stereotypes affecting Ukrainian society’s perception of veterans.  

For additional information, please contact Varvara Zhluktenko, IOM Mission in Ukraine, via vzhluktenko@iom.int or at +38 067 447 97 92.