UN refugee agency says ‘over a million’ may already be displaced by eastern Ukraine violence

GENEVA, 6th February 2015 (WAM) — Nearly one million people may have now been displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with the recent upsurge in violence causing massive destruction of buildings and infrastructure, the collapse of basic services and a spike in the numbers fleeing fighting, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

“As more homes and other civilian infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects more people to be displaced to areas in central, southern and western Ukraine under the control of the Ukrainian Government, but also to non-government controlled areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” said spokesperson Adrian Edwards.

Last week, UNHCR reported at least 943,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs), with Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy today counting some 980,000 people as currently internally displaced, expecting that figure to rise as fighting continues.

William Spindler, another spokesman for UNHCR added to Edwards’s comments by saying that numbers of IDPs are growing daily as more people register.

“Some of these people are recently displaced, which leads us to believe that the actual number might be over a million displaced inside Ukraine,” he said. “To those we need to add those who have fled to neighbouring countries.” UNHCR says that currently over 600,000 Ukrainians have fled the country, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly the Russian Federation, but also Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Romania, since February 2014.