WASHINGTON — The Russian invasion of Ukraine could force as many as 4 million Ukrainians to flee their country, the United Nations said this week, spawning one of the worst refugee crises in Europe in more than 70 years.
According to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, as of Saturday morning, more than 150,000 Ukrainians have crossed into neighboring countries, with an estimated 75,000 crossing into Poland.
Grandi tweeted Saturday morning the number of internally displaced refugees within Ukraine “is also growing but the military situation makes it difficult to estimate numbers and provide aid.”
Poland – along with Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary – have relaxed COVID-19 border controls to allow in Ukrainians fleeing Russian violence. The Polish government declared open borders and said it would not require official documents.
“We will help everyone. We will not leave anyone without help,” the Polish border agency said.
According to the AP, the line of cars at the Medyka, Poland-Ukraine border crossing stretched back 15 kilometers.
Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, tweeted Thursday, “The govt has deployed temporary placement centers near Palanca and Ocnița. Our borders are open for Ukrainian citizens who need safe transit or stay.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chief European allies, said in a press conference this week, Hungary would allow in refugees even if they did not have paperwork. Thousands of refugees have already crossed Hungary’s 85-mile border with Ukraine. Hungary also said Saturday it would not block any sanctions against Russia.
The refugees are primarily women, children and the elderly because Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy banned earlier this week men of military age from leaving the country.
In the U.S., the Biden administration has asked Congress to provide $6.4 billion to Ukraine, some of which will go toward humanitarian aid.
U.S. Senator Chris Coons, the chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee, which overseas humanitarian aid, told reporters Friday he supported emergency spending of at least $10 billion to support the Ukrainian military and refugees.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, told VOA he expects Ukrainian refugees to receive similar treatment to those fleeing Afghanistan who received Temporary Protected Status.
“I will lead the charge with that. Me and Marcy Kaptur, the Republican and Democrat co-chairs of the Ukraine caucus, we’re both in agreement on this,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are going to welcome freedom-loving Ukrainians to the United States or any other country that they want to go to. But more importantly we got to defend Ukraine itself so they can stay in Ukraine.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.