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2 August 2022

Government seeks to enforce a total evacuation of the Donetsk oblast. Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers on 2 August 2022 issued a decree ordering all to leave the province in the face of the Russian military push. 

While the decree refers to the Donetsk oblast as such, in practice it is likely to be limited to its part still under Ukraine’s central control. No practical means seem to exist for now to extract those living in the areas controlled by the secessionist’s regimes.

While mass population departures have been common since the start of Russia’s invasion last February, those have been voluntary in nature. Individuals made their own decisions whether to flee a territory threatened with military operations. The government’s role had mostly been limited to arranging transport and providing other support. 

This seems to be the first time that an evacuation has been made mandatory. Once factor behind it might be a concern over potential collaboration, voluntary or otherwise, with the occupying forces of those who choose to stay behind. The decree invokes as its legal basis a regulation authorizing the executive to order mass evacuations in the event of various natural or man-made disasters.

Yet it is not clear how the measure might square with other laws. The Constitution, in particular, assures Ukrainians of freedom of movement and residence, a right apparently limited under martial law. In any event, one question is whether military hostilities are comparable to those other disasters covered by the regulation. The other is what legal liability would apply to those refusing to leave, and how the measure might be practically enforced. While the Ukrainian army and police in the area may be told to go rounding up people door to door, such an approach would under the circumstances seem impracticable and perhaps even counterproductive.

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