Estimated 10 million Ukrainians forced to leave homes amid Russian invasion

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March 20 (UPI) — An estimated 10 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes amid the Russian invasion, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Sunday.

His comments came amid reports from leaders in the Luhansk region of Ukraine that a Russian tank had fired on residents of an elderly care home, which have not been independently verified but point to the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country.

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Grandi said in a statement that the figure includes people who have been displaced within Ukraine as well as refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.

“Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes,” Grandi said.

Data from the UNHCR shows that nearly 3.4 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

Most of the refugees, about 2 million, left Ukraine for Poland — a member country of the European Union’s Schengen Area, which allows people to move freely between countries. As such, it remains unclear how many refugees have since continued to other countries within Europe.

Another 306,000 refugees have fled to Hungary while 246,000 fled to Slovakia, both of which are inside the Schengen Area. Another 527,000 have fled to Romania while 362,000 have fled to Moldova.

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The refugee crisis comes as Ukraine faces a humanitarian crisis caused by advancing Russian forces, which have bombed schools and other facilities sheltering civilians.

Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region, said in a post to Telegram on Sunday that 56 elderly people who lived at a nursing home in Kreminna were “cynically and deliberately” killed on March 11 when a Russian tank opened fire on them.

Haidai said that another 15 people at the care home were “abducted” and taken to another elderly care home in Svatove, a town that has been taken over by Russian forces.

The Mariupol City Council said Saturday that residents of the besieged city in southern Ukraine have also been forcibly relocated to Russian territory against their will, which has been confirmed by such residents in comments to The New York Times.

The United Nations Children’s Fund warned Saturday that children fleeing the war in Ukraine are at a high risk for human trafficking and exploitation.

More than 1.5 million children have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February as more than 500 unaccompanied children were identified crossing into Romania alone, according to UNICEF.

The humanitarian aid agency said that the true number of children who have been separated from their families is likely much higher.

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