Ukrainian Refugees Reach 2.8 Million as Civilians Leave Mariupol

Photo credit: AP

The number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country since Russia first invaded on February 24 has reached 2.8 million, in what has become Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. 

Ukrainians are now fleeing what was previously the relatively safe western Ukraine, joining thousands crossing into Europe, following a Russian attack on a Ukrainian base near the Polish border. The attack on the facility brought the conflict to the NATO alliance’s doorstep. 

Millions more are displaced within Ukraine, with many evacuating into quieter regions, such as within the western city of Lviv. 

The European Union estimates that 5 million will flee Ukraine. Other organizations and countries think the number will be even higher. 

Battles continue around many cities across Ukraine, including capital city Kyiv, prompting refugees to cross the border or to become internally displaced. 

For the first time, refugees were able to leave the besieged city of Mariupol after a week of trying. A convoy of at least 160 cars left the southern port city. It appears to be the first successful use of a humanitarian corridor to evacuate people after many failed attempts.

However, a humanitarian convoy that has been trying to enter the city has not been let in. Civilians have been trapped in Mariupol for more than two weeks without heating, electricity, running water, food, and drinking water. 

A local ceasefire with the Russian forces besieging the city held just long enough for the first cars to leave, heading for the city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles away. 

Efforts are being made to deliver humanitarian supplies to those who are still trapped in the city. Food reserves and water reserves are quickly running out. The city council has said the situation is “critical,” and that more than 2,500 residents have been killed since the invasion began. 

Russia claims it does not target civilians.

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