Thousands more refugees crossed into Eastern Europe on Thursday, with many hoping for peace talks between Moscow and Kiev to end the war soon, though more people are expected to flee in the coming days.
With the war in Ukraine entering its fourth week, some 3.2 million people have fled abroad, a United Nations figure that showed a growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II on Thursday.
While the frontline states – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova – have slowed in recent days, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he expects a “bigger wave” next week.
“The war is not waning, it is spreading; and as it spreads, there is a risk that more people will come to Hungary next week, which will present us with a huge challenge,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page. late wednesday.
“Not only are they fleeing war-torn areas, they are also fleeing war zones.”
One of them was Alla Klochko in Donetsk, Mirnohrod, a pro-independence region in eastern Ukraine but opposed by Kyiv, which is at the center of fierce fighting between Ukraine and Russia.
The 31-year-old Alisa, who lives near Warsaw, hoped to find a job and enroll in an eight-year-old Polish schoolmate who loves to play the piano.
“I hope that if our delegation reaches an agreement and there is peace in the end, I hope that Ukraine will not lose our part of our territory, our Donetsk, because the Donetsk region is Ukrainian,” he said.
“We are part of Ukraine, we have always been and we hope that this will remain the case,” said Przemysl, a train station near the Ukrainian border. “We speak Russian, but we are Ukrainians.”
MOVING THE WEST
Most European countries have offered to take in refugees in recent weeks to ease pressure on Ukrainian residents. German police have registered 187,428 refugees – mostly women and children – as of Thursday, the Interior Ministry said, with Spain registering about 4,500 so far.
In the midst of the ongoing fighting, Ukraine and Russia have talked about progress in bilateral talks.
Ukrainian officials say they believe Russia is running out of troops to continue fighting and may refuse to overthrow the Ukrainian government. Moscow has said it is close to agreeing on a formula that will keep Ukraine neutral, one of its long-standing demands.
“I hope this will end soon. Everyone says it’s necessary … I don’t know,” said Ekaterina Herman, 27, who arrived in Poland late Wednesday with her two-year-old child.
“I plan to return to Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, refugees from across the region were trying to establish some sort of normalcy.
In a shelter that has been converted into a supermarket in south-eastern Rzeszow, Poland, volunteers and children tugged at ropes, drew tattoos and made drawings, exploding into the speakers of the Beverly Hills Cop film.
In Romania, at the Siret border crossing in Ukraine, babies, children and women of all ages continued to arrive, and Romanian firefighters and volunteers welcomed them and carried their luggage on the buses.
The UN bases its aid plans on four million refugees, but says the figure is set to rise. The European Union expects to reach five million.
Since the invasion began on February 24, more than 270,000 people have fled to Hungary, 220,000 to Slovakia and 467,000 to Romania, most of them refugees, or 1.85 million to Poland, according to government and UN figures.