GENEVA: About 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago, with another 2 million internally displaced by the war, the United Nations said on Friday.
The UN Refugee Agency s chief Filippo Grandi blamed the mass displacement on what he called a “senseless war” that began on February 24.
“The number of refugees from Ukraine, tragically, has reached today 2.5 million,” Grandi tweeted.
“We also estimate that about two million people are displaced inside Ukraine. Millions forced to leave their homes by this senseless war.”
Paul Dillon, spokesman for the UN s International Organization for Migration, said the 2.5 million people who had fled Ukraine included 116,000 nationals from other countries.
The UNHCR had been working on the estimate that four million people may eventually seek to leave Ukraine as the war continues.
But the agency said that given the scale of the exodus in less than three weeks, it would be no surprise if that figure was exceeded.
“It is quite possible that that planning figure of four million might be revised up,” UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh told reporters in Geneva, speaking via videolink from Poland, close to the Ukrainian border.
The number of refugees is “certainly unprecedented since World War II,” he said.
Before the Russian invasion, more than 37 million people lived on Ukrainian territory under the control of the central government in Kyiv.
More than half of the fugitives went to Poland.
Polish border guards announced on Friday that 1.52 million people who fled Ukraine had crossed the border, and 87,000 others did so on Thursday.
Poland supports the Ukrainian refugee cause. The government has set up reception centres, charities have mobilized a massive aid effort, and an estimated 1.5 million Ukrainians already live in EU member states.
Polish border guards said Thursday that 140,000 people have entered Ukraine from Poland since the invasion.
They fall into three main categories: Ukrainian men who worked in Poland and returned to join the military, migrant workers who returned to care for relatives still in Ukraine, and refugees who recently returned for family reasons.
Thousands of refugees headed to other countries once they crossed Ukraine’s western border.
Russian attacks hit civilian targets in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Friday, as Moscow’s troops gradually approached the capital, Kyiv, which has an estimated 350 people since the war began, according to its mayor, Vitali Klitschko. The population of 10,000 people has lost half of it.
“UNHCR repeats its call for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Saltmarsh said.
“We are committed to stay and deliver assistance when and where access and security allow.”