The Greek government announced it would give special status to ethnic Greeks living in Ukraine, who have been impacted by the conflict with pro-Russian forces. The Greek foreign ministry estimated that there are more than 90,000 Ukrainians of Greek origin who live in the Mauripol region.
The foreign ministry announced that all Greek-origin people from the war-torn region would be treated as “returnees” and not ordinary refugees or asylum seekers.
“Greek Ukranians (not possessing Greek citizenship) who would choose to resettle to Greece would get a special status – as was the case with people of Greek origin emigrating to Greece after the split-up of the former Soviet Union”, Anastasia Christofilopoulou, a Greek spokeswoman, told the EUObserver.
“At that time, there were special provisions facilitating citizenship-acquisition and granting of professional/social rights. In a similar case, similar measures would probably apply”.
Violence has escalated in the region. Sartana, a majority-Greek village near Mariupol was shelled by pro-Russia forces for 25 minutes, killing three people and damaging 170 homes. Rocket attacks over the past year have killed numerous people in the region, including a January assault that killed 30 people.
Greece, on Monday, transported 191 Greek-origin children and elderly people from Kiev to Rhodes, for assistance with re-settlement.
Native Greeks have occupied regions of the Ukraine for centuries, with a peak during Byzantine times. These communities have maintained cultural ties to Greece, with numerous Greek-language schools to assist young children to learn the language.