Exodus Grows as 150,000 People Flee Russia’s Ukraine Invasion. Millions May Follow
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, more than 150,000 have fled Ukraine after Russia invaded Ukraine unprovoked last week. This exodus could reach as high as 5,000,000 according to the U.N. The U.N.’s refugee agency said half of those fleeing had headed to the 300-mile border with Poland, where U.S. forces are helping with preparations for new arrivals, while other displaced civilians left for Hungary, Moldova and Romania.
As Russian ground forces move toward large cities including Kyiv, home to 3 million residents, the refugee population is expected to grow. The third day of Russian aggression saw missiles rain down upon population centers, while intense street clashes were accompanied by bursts and gunfire. Ukrainians packed onto railroad cars and roads and fled on foot. Many Americans and European officials are worried about the next refugee crisis.
“If Russia continues down this path, it could–according to our estimates–create a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today, with as many as 5 million more people displaced by Russia’s war of choice and putting pressure on Ukraine’s neighbors,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said this week.
According to a U.S. military official, the Russian military advances are moving slower than U.S intelligence expected. However, Ukrainian forces have resisted with stiff resistance. Moscow has not yet taken any major Ukrainian cities. The airspace around Ukraine is still in dispute, despite the predictions of Russian fighter jets that they would soon dominate it.
Russia launched over 250 missiles against Ukraine. Some of them reportedly hit civilian areas. apartment buildings. U.N. says that the recent bombardment of schools and water facilities has caused serious damage. Most of those fleeing are women, children and the elderly following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s order banning men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country.
Tens of thousands more families will be forced to flee the country by the influx of Ukrainians from the south and west, possibly causing a humanitarian crisis.
Continue reading: ‘We Will Defend Ourselves.’ Photographs of Ukraine Under Attack
Poland has announced that it will open its borders to Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine, regardless of whether they have any official documentation. U.S. paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division assisted in Poland with setting up facilities for refugees. For those who need information, food or medical help, reception points were set up. “We do continue to see increases in the numbers of people trying to leave the country,” a senior U.S. defense official said. “The lines are stacking up on the Ukrainian side of the border with Poland.”
The roads from Ukraine to Poland were lined with columns of refugees. Many fledglings had little possessions. They took only what was necessary to leave their home and ran. Mass migration is likely to exceed the number of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq in 2015 (1.3 million). That exodus was Europe’s largest wave of refugees since World War II and helped fuel the rise of populist far-right parties and anti-immigration sentiment.
Poland’s position on the incoming refugees is a dramatic turn from last year when baton-wielding Polish security forces repelled families who made the treacherous journey from war-torn states including Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. Amnesty International reached out to those who experienced violent treatment from Polish authorities, such as pepper spraying and forcing adults into rivers.
About 2 million Ukrainians already call Poland home, many having fled their homes following Russia’s illegal seizure of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and its orchestration of an eight-year insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Mariusz Kaminski, the Polish Interior Minister, said that the country is ready for another wave. “We will do everything to provide safe shelter in Poland for everyone who needs it,” he said.