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More than 1.5 million flee Ukraine in ‘fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II’

Julia Gereasumenko and her pets take shelter in a subway station amid Russia's invasion, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

The United Nations’ top refugee official says the flood of Ukrainian refugees in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked attack is unparalleled since the second World War.

“More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighboring countries in 10 days — the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner on refugees, tweeted Sunday.

On Friday, Grandi said he saw thousands cross Ukraine’s border with Moldova, in Palanca.

“Thousands of stories of separation, anguish and loss,” he said. “A difficult day, but much respect for the many dedicated Moldovan officials and people helping the refugees.”

Grandi’s comments come as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have ramped up attacks on Ukraine that have left more than 351 civilians dead and 707 injured between Feb. 24 and March 4, according to the latest figures confirmed by the UN Human Rights office. The totals include scores of children, the UN says.

“The days to come are likely to be worse, with more death, more suffering, and more destruction, as the Russian armed forces bring in heavier weaponry and continue their attacks across the country,” Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, told reporters in a news conference Friday.

Putin’s attack ignited widespread protests and an outpouring of support for Ukrainians, including in Boston and Cambridge.

The Biden administration last week said Ukrainians who entered the U.S. on or prior to March 1, 2022, can apply for temporary protected status (TPS) — a move that lets them legally live and work here over the next 18 months, Vox reported.

The federal government is also sparing about 4,000 Ukrainians from deportation to Ukraine. There are about 344,000 Ukrainian immigrants in the U.S., including about 34,000 who don’t currently have a legal immigration status who will now be able to apply for TPS, according to the American immigration Council.

Mila Kunis, the Ukrainian-born American actress, and her husband Ashton Kutcher recently pledged to match up to $3 million in donations in an effort to raise $30 million to help refugees and provide aid to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

“The events that have unfolded in Ukraine are devastating,” Kunis said. “There is no place in this world for this kind of unjust attack on humanity.”

The couple’s GoFundMe is already more than halfway to its goal, raising more than $16 million in two days. The couple says the funds will bolster and, providing supplies in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova as well as free, short-term housing to those in need.


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