As Russia ramps up its offensive, tired Ukrainians beat the road to safety

Ukrainian men carry their equipment to the border as they return to Ukraine to fight Russian aggression, in Medyka
Ukrainian men carry their equipment to the border as they return to Ukraine to fight Russian aggression, at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Kai. Pfaffenbach

March 2, 2022

By Krisztina Than and Alicja Ptak

TISZABECS, Hungary/Rzeszow, Poland (Reuters) – Thousands of people fleeing fierce fighting in Ukraine poured into Central European border crossings on Wednesday as Russian troops bombarded Ukrainian cities and ready to enter the capital Kyiv.

Western nations race to provide humanitarian and military aid while putting pressure on Russia’s economy, already reeling from sanctions, with US President Joe Biden warning Vladimir Putin that the leader Russian religion “didn’t know what was going to happen”.

Given Russia’s initial failures to capture major cities, Western analysts suggest that Moscow appears to have changed tactics, including ferocious shelling of built-up areas to subdue aggression. stubborn resistance.

The United Nations estimates nearly 700,000 people have fled to neighboring countries since the invasion began in what the UN Refugee Agency has warned will become Europe’s biggest refugee crisis. in this century.

Nearly a week after the invasion, which Putin called “an exceptional military operation,” the flow of people fleeing shows little sign of abating.

In Tiszabecs, on Hungary’s border with Ukraine, Julia from Kyiv held a baby tightly bound against the cold and wore a beanie with animal ears. She told of leaving her husband behind to fight, and how three friends were killed in a rocket attack the day she left.

“I spent the night in the basement and then we walked to the train station,” said the 32-year-old. “If I hadn’t had children with me, I would have been with my husband.”

Across central Europe, a memory of Moscow’s domination after World War II, thousands of volunteers converged across the borders, bringing food, clothing and blankets.

Most of the refugees have joined the European Union – the membership Ukraine wants – in eastern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and northern Romania. Authorities set up tents to provide medical aid and process asylum applications.


At the train station in Przemysl, a town of about 60,000 just west of Medyka, Poland’s busiest border crossing, volunteers distributed free cookies, drinks and sweets, as well as meals as hot as rye soup and schnitzel for thousands of people waiting to be shipped across Europe.

Dozens of folding beds were temporarily placed inside to help some people rest, exhausted from hours on wartime roads and long lines to cross the border. Others can use the free SIM card and trolley provided.

Local officials in Przemysl say they are working to set up humanitarian centers on the Ukrainian side of the border to quickly provide food and intermediary assistance to those stuck in long lines.

As the EU seeks to accommodate hundreds of thousands of war-displaced people on its doorstep, many train operators have offered free travel to refugees, while the Oresund Bridge fee, connecting Denmark and Sweden, is exempt for cars from Ukraine.

Low-cost carrier WIZZ Air said it would offer 100,000 free seats to refugees on short-haul flights leaving Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania in March.

Late on Tuesday night in central Warsaw, a shopping mall was packed with people who spoke Ukrainian and bought casual clothes.

About half of the refugees entering Poland are children, and Polish public television said it will start streaming Ukrainian children’s programs on Wednesday and is working on dubbing the programs. children of Poland into Ukrainian.

In Poland, where about 1 million Ukrainians are the largest community in the region, the government says more than 450,000 people have crossed the border so far, while Romanian border police data shows 118,000 Ukrainians passed there.

Mixed among the fleeing Ukrainian women and children – men of military age obliged to stay and help in protection – are many of the thousands of foreigners studying or working in Ukraine when the invasion began.

About 250 Indian students who escaped into Romania through the Romanian checkpoint at Siret spent Tuesday night in an impromptu shelter in a sports gym in the town of Voluntari, near the capital Bucharest.

Aman Sharma, 20, an Indian medical student who fled from Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, said: “I have many Ukrainian friends left there and I am really sad for them.

“My last words were ‘take care’. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again.”

(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Justyna Pawlak and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw and Anna Luiza Ilie and Octav Ganea in Bucharest; Writing by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Alex Richardson) As Russia ramps up its offensive, tired Ukrainians beat the road to safety

Bobby Allyn

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