Russia’s relentless bombardment of residential areas across Ukraine has so far forced more than one million refugees to flee the country in just seven days, according to the United Nations, as fierce fighting continues into its second week.Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement Thursday: “I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one.”By comparison, it took three months for one million refugees to leave Syria in 2013 when departures there were at their height, according to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.Half a million of the refugees are children, according to UNICEF, which warned Europe could be facing its largest refugee crises since World War II.
Millions more people are likely to be forced to flee Ukraine, Grandi said. He added: “International solidarity has been heartwarming. But nothing — nothing — can replace the need for the guns to be silenced; for dialogue and diplomacy to succeed. Peace is the only way to halt this tragedy.”In Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, residents were awoken in the early hours of Thursday by at least one large explosion in the southwest of the city, following a day of heavy shelling. To the south, the mayor of the strategically important city of Kherson on the Black Sea indicated that Russian forces had seized control, though claims remain disputed. And in the port city of Mariupol, home to roughly 400,000, residents are without electricity and water, according to local officials, as Russian troops step up their offensive.
A resident of Kherson,which has about 300,000 inhabitants, described the situation there as a “humanitarian catastrophe,” telling CNN Thursday there had been chaos and panic in the city as residents tried to get basic necessities.According to the local resident, there is a severe lack of food and medicine — particularly insulin — with pharmacies being looted.The resident added that there had been a significant amount of looting by Russian troops, and said that Russian soldiers had been seen arresting men.The mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhaiev, said Wednesday the Ukrainian military is no longer in the city and that its inhabitants must now carry out the instructions of “armed people who came to the city’s administration” — indicating that the city has now fallen under Russian control.