Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set off the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. As of this writing, a total of over 10 million people have been displaced or left Ukraine completely. The situation will only get worse.
Russian forces have begun to surround the capital city of Kyiv. Several other cities, the largest of which is Mariupol, are under siege by Russian forces. Mariupol has been bombarded for days. Supplies of food and water are nearly gone.
Because in many places the Ukrainian defenders have been successful, the Russians have stepped up their bombings of the civilian population. This, the Russians believe, will get the country’s leaders to surrender. It will also exacerbate the refugee problem. (See how Russia and Ukraine military spending compares to the world.)
For many Ukrainians, the path to safety is nearly as dangerous as staying in their homes. Humanitarian corridors have been set up so residents can safely flee their homes, but the Russians have periodically attacked these. According to the Washington Post, “The use of these corridors in Ukraine has been haphazard. Despite cease-fire agreements, Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of continuing their attacks and rendering the routes impassable.”
Ukraine is a country of 44 million people. It is not hard to imagine that a quarter of these will eventually leave the country as they seek safety.
The surge of refugees has already started to cripple the resources of neighboring countries who have taken them in. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has called for international aid to his country as it accommodates millions of Ukrainians. It is worth noting that Poland’s population is only 38 million, and geographically, it is about half the size of Ukraine.
The United Nations Relief Agency has been tracking refugee traffic out of Ukraine, posting daily updates in its Ukraine Refugee Operational Data Portal. Describing the portal’s value, its creators wrote: “The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties and has forced people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance.”
As of this writing, the portal shows that 5 million people have left Ukraine for other parts of Europe. Over 2 million of these have gone to Poland. Poland is one of the 14 former soviet and soviet-aligned republics that joined NATO after the Cold War
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