The United Nations refugee chief has warned that more people will be forced to flee their homes in Ukraine after Russia conducted air attacks on multiple cities across Ukraine including the capital Kyiv.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees spoke on Monday in Geneva on the sidelines of the Nansen Refugee Award ceremony, which this year went to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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“The horror of what happened in Ukraine today … is inexcusable,” Filippo Grandi told journalists.
Russia’s wave of cruise missile attacks followed an explosion on the strategically-important Kerch bridge that links it with Crimea, the Ukrainian territory it annexed in 2014.
“The bombing of civilians, of houses … of non-military infrastructure in an indiscriminate manner in many cities across Ukraine, means the war is becoming harder and more difficult for civilians,” Grandi said.
“I fear that the events of these last hours will provoke more displacements.”
Also on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply shocked” by the raids, according to a spokesman.
“This constitutes another unacceptable escalation of the war and, as always, civilians are paying the highest price,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Ukrainian authorities said Russia fired 84 missiles at 10 cities, 56 of which were neutralised by air defences.
At least 19 people were killed in the attacks, which also wounded dozens, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.
Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, more than 7.6 million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded across Europe.
While some of them have since returned, more than 4.2 million Ukrainians have registered for temporary protection status in European Union countries.
Another nearly seven million people have been displaced within the conflict-torn country, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.
“My prognosis … is that we will mainly see internal displacements,” Grandi said.
“You have people who flee for only a few hours, to escape the bombs… and then try to return home,” he said.
But in situations where destruction is greater, and people can no longer access heat or food, “I fear the displacements will last longer”, he said.