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UN: 1.5 million Ukrainians in ‘fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since WWII’

Refugee situation expected to worsen as Russian assault intensifies, particularly toward Kyiv; largest number of Ukrainians crossing border head to neighboring Poland

A young girl fleeing the war in Ukraine looks out of the window as she arrives at the train station in Przemysl, Poland, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A young girl fleeing the war in Ukraine looks out of the window as she arrives at the train station in Przemysl, Poland, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The number of people fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has topped 1.5 million, making it Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II, the United Nations said on Sunday.

“More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighboring countries in 10 days,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees tweeted.

The UN described the outflow as “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” having reported on Saturday that nearly 1.37 million refugees had fled.

UN officials said they expected the wave to intensify further as the Russian army pressed its offensive, particularly toward the capital Kyiv.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, a total of 922,400 people have fled Ukraine to Poland, Polish border guards said Sunday.

Hungary, Moldova, Romanian and Slovakia have also seen Ukrainian refugees arrive.

A woman hugs a child as refugees, mostly women with children, arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

The World Health Organization said meanwhile that signs of attacks on health centers in Ukraine were increasing, which it said amounts to a violation of medical neutrality and international humanitarian law.

On Day 11 of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Russian troops shelled encircled cities and a pro-Russian official said safe-passage corridors would open again for residents of the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian officials confirmed that evacuations from the city would take place.

Ukrainian officials said Russian artillery fire and airstrikes had prevented residents from leaving before the agreed-to evacuations got underway Saturday. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the effort.

Smoke rises after shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Russia has made significant advances in the south, seeking to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Avrov in the south.

Capturing Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were holding key cities in the central and southeastern part of the country, while the Russians were trying to block and keep encircled Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy.

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