2.6 million flee war in Ukraine: UN

GENEVA (AFP) – The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since the Russian invasion two weeks ago now stands at nearly 2.6 million, the UN announced yesterday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said there were 2,597,543 refugees who had fled Ukraine so far, in the latest update yesterday afternoon.

The figure was 92,650 higher than last count on Friday.

It is the biggest exodus of refugees from Europe since World War II, according to the head of the UN refugee agency, Filippo Grandi.

Four million people could leave Ukraine to flee the war, according to the first estimates of the UN, a figure which will probably be revised upwards, according to the UN refugee agency.

Before the conflict, Ukraine had some 37 million inhabitants in the regions under its control, excluding the Crimea annexed by Russia and the pro-Russian breakaway regions in the east.

Poland hosts more than half of Ukrainian refugees with 1,575,703 people entering the country since the February 24 invasion, according to the UNHCR.

A Ukrainian refugee family selects clothes at a situation center in Sofia. PHOTO: AFP

Polish border guards said yesterday that 1,596,000 people had arrived from Ukraine since the start of the war.

A second wave of refugee arrivals appears to be slowly ebbing. On Friday, their number was 76,200, down 12.5% ​​from the previous day.

Tens of thousands of people are also entering Ukraine from Poland – mostly people returning to fight, but also others looking to care for elderly relatives or returning to bring family to Poland.

Before the crisis, around 1.5 million Ukrainians lived in Poland, with the vast majority working in the EU country.

Hungary hosts 235,576 refugees so far, according to UNHCR figures on Friday.

It has five border posts with Ukraine and several border towns such as Zahony where local authorities have transformed public buildings into emergency centers for refugees.

A total of 185,673 people entered Slovakia from Ukraine, according to UNHCR. Slovak authorities said 9,581 people entered the country on Friday.

By Thursday, 106,000 Ukrainians had sought refuge in Russia.

The UN refugee agency said 96,000 people passed through the pro-Russian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk between February 18 and 23. Many Ukrainians fleeing their country transit through Moldova, a small nation of 2.6 million inhabitants and one of the poorest in Europe, to continue on to Romania or Hungary.

UNHCR said 104,929 refugee arrivals were recorded on Thursday.

The UNHCR did not update its statistics for Romania, but 85,000 refugees had been registered in the country as of March 8. Many refugees travel to other countries from Romania.

Romanian authorities said on Friday that 365,000 people had entered the country since February 24 and just over 280,000 had left.

UNHCR said around 304,000 people have traveled to other European countries.

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