Before the war with Russia, the national population of Ukraine was estimated at around 45 million, a decline from its peak in 1990, of 51.6 million. Today, Ukraine is thought to have roughly 36.7 million citizens.

Though Russia occupies only 16.5 percent of Ukraine, down from 24.4 percent in February 2022, an estimated 13 million Ukrainians are living under Russian occupation or near the front.

The European Union estimates that there are over 4 million Ukrainian refugees currently living there and an estimated 7 million Ukrainians are internally displaced within Ukraine. Over 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees, forced or otherwise, are thought to be currently in Russia.

Without counting war dead or those who left the country without passing government checkpoints, the current population of Ukrainians, in free-Ukraine, is in the general ballpark of 20 million.


Russia has a population of about 144 million.

It was reported that during a recent roundtable in Kyiv, some experts posited that perhaps as many as 5 million citizens may leave Ukraine, post-war, to find new opportunities amid an economy that has been badly battered by war. Men, in particular, have been limited in their ability to leave due to martial law, so the introduction of peace talks or an accord that would strike the restriction, could lead to an exodus.

Ukraine’s population has an unusually small portion of men and women aged 15 to 30. This demographic, precisely the one from which military recruits are taken, is key for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself from Russian aggression. However, people in their 20s are precisely the demographic most likely to leave the country to seek higher education or work abroad.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 29, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 29, 2024

Latest from the Institute for the Study of War.

Should the West force peace talks now, the prospect of a post-war Ukraine with a population of somewhere around 15 million is not entirely impossible.

Roughly 30 percent of Ukraine is over 55 and about 18 percent is under 18. Without factoring military health, family, and other exemptions, in the best case, Ukraine would have a population of some 5 million men who theoretically could be drafted.


So far, one key reason that Russia, despite its much greater size, has failed to sack Ukraine is the strong support from the United States and Western allies that has allowed Ukraine to keep up an enemy death toll far higher than that suffered by Ukraine. Though smaller, Ukraine, per capita and in raw numbers, is suffering far fewer losses than is Russia.

Forcing peace talks, now, would only assure that any future conflict against Russia would lead to an even further out-numbered Ukrainian army against the Russian Goliath. Any suggestion that Ukraine could “freeze the conflict” and retake its territory at a future date should be met with skepticism. The numbers speak for themselves.

Photo credit: Wikipedia, based on World Population Prospects.

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Comments (2)
Gavan Duffy
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The demography of Ukraine is a problem to be faced. There are now some millions of Ukrainains living abroad. Somehow they must be encouraged to return home to help rebuild the nation and help in the war effort. There should be a ministry in charge of doing this.
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Ok but what is the solution: Keeping fighting in this manner basically a slow death through a million cuts rather than a quick death??

Either way it seems the great analysts and gurus have only misery and suffering for the people of Ukraine.

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@roshan, I read the article as being supportive of giving Ukraine whatever it needs NOW to finish off the putin's orcs. High quality, highly effective weaponry is merited NOW to rapidly increase the 'death rate' of the russian invaders. Delaying the war through temporary cease fires or another historically ineffective 'peace agreement' with deception prone russia only puts Ukraine at greater future risk given its current demographics. Ukraine must also be brought into both NATO and the EU ASAP to ensure its future protection from bully nations as its population / economy re-stabilizes.

I'd like to comment that a number of small countries have gone from impoverished dying nations to becoming young GDP powerhouses within a few decades simply by implementing favourable tax & immigration policies. If possible, Ukraine may need to implement similar to attract post war investment.

As an immediate demographic fix, I wonder also how many russian political prisoners and deserting russians in that needed demographic gap (that clearly hate putin, his kleptocrat regime and russia's traditionally nihilistic society), would rather be part of the future Ukrainian EU growth and prosperity story than go back to russia? That's probably 10->20 million prospective new Ukrainian citizens right there.