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Ukrainians flee Russian invasion


Several thousand Ukrainians have crossed into neighbouring countries, mainly Moldova and Romania, as an estimated 100,000 have fled their homes and are uprooted in the country after Russia’s invasion, the UN’s refugee agency says.

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Central European countries across the region are bracing for many more refugees, setting up reception points and sending troops towards the borders to provide assistance.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said the figures were compiled from reports from national authorities and its staff and partner agencies. “It’s a ballpark figure,” she told Reuters.

It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war in a pre-dawn televised address on Thursday, explosions and gunfire were heard throughout the morning in Kyiv, a city of three million people.

Missiles rained down on Ukrainian targets and authorities reported columns of troops pouring across Ukraine’s borders from Russia and Belarus to the north and east, and landing on the southern coasts from the Black Sea and Azov Sea.

The assault brought a calamitous end to weeks of fruitless diplomatic efforts by Western leaders to avert war.

The countries on the European Union’s eastern flank were all once part of the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact and are now members of NATO.

Among them, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania all share land borders with Ukraine.

Russia has launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

It has fuelled fears of a massive flood of refugees fleeing Ukraine, a nation of 44 million people.

Poland called for the “fiercest possible sanctions” against Russia.

Czech President Milos Zeman, long sympathetic to Moscow, called Putin a “madman” and Prague stopped issuing visas to Russians and ordered the closure of two Russian consulates.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has also forged good ties with Putin, also condemned Moscow’s actions.

 – AAP

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