5.6 million people have fled Ukraine since invasion’s start: UN refugee agency

Data from the United Nations refugee agency shows that 5.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, demonstrating the massive humanitarian crisis the conflict has sparked.

The majority of those refugees — more than 3.3 million — fled Ukraine in March, while roughly 1.5 million left in April, according to the U.N. agency. The opening days of May have already seen more than 120,000 people depart the country.

The U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that it has recorded more than 3,000 civilian deaths in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, adding that it “believes the actual figures are considerably higher.”

Those numbers come as Russia has launched a renewed offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The U.K. Defense Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that “Russia highly likely intends to proceed beyond Izium to capture the cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk” thought it has struggled “to break through Ukrainian defences and build momentum.”

“Capturing these locations could consolidate Russian military control of the north-eastern Donbas and provide a staging point for their efforts to cut-off Ukrainian forces in the region,” the U.K. Defense Ministry added.

In response to the Russian invasion, now into its third month, a number of officials have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including targeting civilians and civilian structures, and the international community has implemented aggressive measures to rebuke Russia.

The European Commission took another serious step toward economically isolating Moscow on Wednesday, with its president proposing a complete ban on all Russian oil imports.

Though the U.S. and U.K. have already moved forward with such moves, the European bloc had not previously committed to such a ban.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday that “some member-states are strongly dependent on Russian oil” and that the action would not be easy, but she added “we simply have to do it.”

All members of the European bloc still have to vote on the measure, but if passed it would end Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

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