Ukranian Refugees:People walk by a line of cars on the way to Shehyni checkpoint to cross the Ukrainian-Polish border. According to UN figures, 677,000 people have fled Ukraine to
About half a million refugees have made it on to Polish territory from Ukraine since the start of a Russian invasion into the former Soviet republic last week, according to officials in Warsaw on Wednesday.
“We are obliged to help our neighbours and we are doing it. We have created a humanitarian corridor and we have sped up all processes that we can speed up from our side,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki before a joint visit to the Korczowa border crossing with European Council President Charles Michel.
The stance earned praise from Pope Francis, who noted from Rome: “You were the first to support Ukraine, by opening your borders, hearts and doors to those Ukrainians fleeing war.”
Michel said it was important for all EU member states to show solidarity as the Ukraine crisis unfolds and to do their best to support to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian attack.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which started last week after months of Russian denials that any such attack was on the cards, has prompted hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee westward to escape the fighting.
“Poland is helping all the people fleeing the war, all war refugees, regardless of their country of origin,” said Morawiecki. He also urged people seeking shelter to ignore Russian propaganda about the way they would be treated at the border.
He was likely referring to images recently shared on social media in which people of African origin complained they were being forced to wait at the border while other refugees of European origin were allowed through.
Poland is not the refugees’ only destination. About 120,000 have made their way to Romania, though more than half have already travelled on to other countries, leaving about 46,000 still in Romania, said Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, in comments reported by Mediafax.
And in the Czech Republic, authorities say they have registered 20,000 arrivals from Ukraine since the crisis began.
“The wave of refugees is growing,” said Prime Minister Petr Fiala. “We’re a destination country,” noting that the country had set up emergency phone lines and required intake centres in all the country’s administrative regions.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn reported that it and other European railroad operators had set up 40 international high-speed trains to bring refugees who have reached Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland to Germany.
Travel is free, as are continuing trips for those who want to head to countries like Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Switzerland.
Since the imposition of martial law in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are prohibited from leaving the country.
The Ukrainian border guard said Wednesday that it had arrested more than 60 Ukrainian men attempting to cross the border illegally into Moldova.
The men had tried to leave the country via the Dnistr River. They were immediately handed over to military authorities.
The day before, 16 men were arrested and handed over to the army. Some of them are said to have tried to bribe the border guards to facilitate their crossing.
The day before, the border guard had announced that more than 80,000 Ukrainians – most of them men – had returned to the country since the war began last Thursday.