More than 1.5m people flee Ukraine in fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WWII

6 March 2022, 12:07 | Updated: 6 March 2022, 13:43

Over 1.5 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine.
Over 1.5 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

More than 1.5 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russia's invasion began, making it the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, according to the United Nations (UN).

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The landmark number comes as the conflict in the east continues to intensify, with several major cities - including Kharkiv and Chernihiv - facing ongoing shelling and bombing.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted: "More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in 10 days - the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

Moldova President Maia Sandu said more than 240,000 of those refugees had crossed into the country since the start of the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile, France has urged the UK to do more to help Ukrainian refugees trying to come over from Calais.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin on Sunday said it was "inhumane" of Britain to turn away refugees arriving at the French port city if they did not have a valid visa.

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Also on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said Russian forces have targeted "populated areas" of Ukraine to break morale.

The latest intelligence update said: "The scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russia.

"It has responded by targeting populated areas in multiple locations, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol.

"This is likely to represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale.

"Russia has previously used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based munitions.

"Russian supply lines reportedly continue to be targeted, slowing the rate of advance of their ground forces.

"There is a realistic possibility that Russia is now attempting to conceal fuel trucks as regular support trucks to minimise losses."

It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that at least six people were killed after "several" attacks on health care centres in Ukraine too.

In a brief statement on Twitter, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: "Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law."

It followed an announcement from the official WHO account which said: "As of today, WHO has published 6 verified reports of attacks on health care in #Ukraine. More reports are being verified.

"WHO strongly condemns these attacks that caused 6 deaths & 11 injuries."

It added: "At least 6 health workers, working tirelessly to provide urgent medical care, were injured in the attacks in #Ukraine.

"#Healthworkers must be able to provide care in a safe & protected environment, without disruption from acts of violence."