The United Nations’ refugee agency says more than 5 million people have left Ukraine since Russian troops invaded the country almost eight weeks ago.
The Geneva-based office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday that data from official border crossing points showed the number of war refugees had passed 5.03 million. About half of the total are believed to be children.
“Many would do anything, and some even risk going back, to see their loved ones,” High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted. “But every new attack shatters their hopes. Only an end to the war can pave the way for rebuilding their lives.”
The exodus started with wrenching goodbyes soon after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. With most men prohibited from leaving so they would be available to fight, fathers put their young families on trains, and sons packed up the cars of older relatives, none knowing when they would see each other next.
European Union countries welcomed the arrivals from Ukraine with sympathy, soup, baby strollers and blankets. More than half of the total number of refugees, over 2.8 million, arrived first in Poland.
Although many have stayed there, an unknown number have traveled on to other European countries. After reaching 4 million on March 30, the tide of people leaving Ukraine has slowed somewhat in recent weeks. Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine this week may cause more to flee.
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