Fighting in Ukraine has forced over half a million people to flee their homes, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday, warning that the spiralling crisis could “destabilise the whole region”.
At least 260,000 have been displaced within Ukraine, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said, adding that Moscow has reported that another 260,000 people have sought asylum in Russia.
Those numbers were meanwhile believed to be an underestimate, he said, pointing out that “many are staying with families and friends and choose not to register with the authorities.”
On August 20, UNHCR put the number of people displaced inside Ukraine at 190,000, while Moscow said some 197,400 had fled to Russia.
UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres warned of dire consequences if the spiralling crisis in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 2,600 people since mid-April, is allowed to continue.
“If this crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences, but it also has the potential to destabilise the whole region,” he said in a statement.
“After the lessons of the Balkans, it is hard to believe a conflict of these proportions could unfold on the European continent,” he added.