Russian invasion could drive 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad, UN says
More than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours
Fuel, cash and medical supplies are running low in parts of Ukraine after Russia's invasion, which could drive up to five million people to flee abroad, UN aid agencies said on Friday.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, crossed into Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia on Friday as Russian missiles pounded the capital, Kyiv, and men of fighting age were told to stay behind.
The Canadian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told Radio-Canada that according to the latest information, more than 50,000 Ukrainians have fled the country in less than 48 hours.
PHOTOS | Ukrainians cross border to flee war:
Long lineups at land borders
Many waited for hours in freezing conditions to leave Ukraine.
In Poland, authorities said wait times to cross the border ranged from six to 12 hours in some places.
At Medyka in the south of Poland, some 85 kilometres from Lviv in western Ukraine, roads were packed with cars, police directing traffic, and people hugging loved ones after they arrived on the Polish side. An internet map site showed a third of the route between Lviv and the border congested with heavy traffic.
"It is only women and children [coming through] because for men, it is forbidden," said Ludmila, 30. "We leave all our fathers, men, husbands at home, and it feels like shit."
When asked if she was worried about her husband, Ludmila broke down in tears.
Ukrainian rules restrict men between the ages of 18 and 60, who could be conscripted, from crossing the borders.
Marta Buach, 30, from Lviv, said her husband was not allowed to cross with her at Medyka, either.
"In Lviv it is OK, but in other cities, it is really a catastrophe. Kyiv was shelled; other small cities were shelled. We were hearing bombing everywhere.
"I think it is only a matter of time for it to be as dangerous as other cities."
On the border with northern Romania, women were crying as they bid goodbye to male loved ones, setting off to cross into Sighetu Marmatiei, a remote town on the banks of the Tisa river.
Long queues had formed as cars waited to board a ferry over the Danube river into Isaccea, a town between Moldova and the Black Sea, local media in Romania showed.
At least 100,000 Ukrainians in limbo
At least 100,000 people are uprooted in Ukraine after fleeing their homes, UN refugee agency spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told a UN briefing in Geneva.
"We are still trying to see which civilian infrastructure in Ukraine has been hit [and] where," Afshan Khan, UNICEF's regional director for Europe and Central Asia, told the briefing.
European Union interior ministers will discuss the fallout of the crisis on Sunday. Germany has already said the bloc will accept anyone escaping the violence.
"We need to do everything to accept without delay the people who are now fleeing the bombs, the tanks," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters as she arrived for a separate meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels.
Border authorities said 29,000 people had entered Poland from Ukraine on Thursday, and about half had indicated they were fleeing the war. In Romania, more than 10,000 Ukrainians had arrived on Thursday, and nearly 3,000 in Slovakia.
WATCH | Ukraine crisis has implications for all of Europe:
Temporary accommodation for refugees
Michał Mielniczuk, a spokesman for the southern Polish region of Podkarpackie said temporary accommodation was being offered to people arriving.
"The vast majority continue on to other places throughout Poland after receiving a warm meal," he told the Polish news agency PAP.
UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that it had reports of at least 127 civilian casualties in Ukraine, including 25 killed and 102 injured, "caused by shelling and airstrikes." This was likely a significant under-estimate, she said.
U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Friday that more than $1 billion will be needed for aid operations in Ukraine over the next three months.
"We're going to need to use cash for the delivery of assistance, and we're going to need to use that cash safely. We're looking obviously at the impact of sanctions on our operations," he told reporters.
At the United Nations, officials set aside $20 million US to boost UN humanitarian operations in Ukraine. Separately, the UN Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces. Moscow, however, is certain to veto it.
Griffiths said the money from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund will support emergency operations along the contact line in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and in other areas of the country, and will "help with health care, shelter, food, and water and sanitation to the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict."
The West and its allies have shown no inclination to send troops into Ukraine — which is not a member of NATO — and risk a wider war on the continent. But NATO reinforced its member states in eastern Europe as a precaution against an attack on them, too.
With files from The Associated Press