More Than 50,000 Ukrainian Refugees Have Fled Country Since Invasion Began

In a nation of 44 million people, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have already fled the country after Russia started taking military action against it.

More than 50,000 people have fled the country since Russia began its invasion on Thursday. At least another 100,000 people within the country have been uprooted and displaced, Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency, confirmed with Newsweek on Friday.

The United Nations estimated there could be millions of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries following Russian President Vladimir Putin's order of the military invasion of Ukraine. The majority of refugees arrived in Poland and Moldova, but there are "many more moving towards its borders," the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi posted on twitter.

The neighboring country of Moldova, with a population of just under 3 million people, accepted thousands of Ukrainian refugees and vowed to keep its borders open to help.

"First [Ukrainian] citizens arrive in [Moldova], with over 4000 crossings today," Moldova's President Maia Sandu wrote on Twitter on Thursday. She also posted photos of what seem to be tents in an open field for refugees to stay in, but it's unclear where or when the photos were taken.

She added, "The [government] has deployed temporary placement centers near Palanca and Ocnița. Our borders are open for [Ukrainian] citizens who need safe transit or stay."

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States representative to the U.N, said during her address to the United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Monday that nearly 3 million Ukrainians already needed "food, shelter and lifesaving assistance" prior to the full-blown military action.

"If Russia invades Ukraine even further, we will see a devastating loss of life. Unimaginable suffering. Millions of displaced people will create a refugee crisis across Europe," she said.

On Thursday, some people trying to flee by car were unable to get far because of major traffic causing a standstill. Others have tried to buy bus or train tickets while some walked on foot with just a suitcase and bags containing their belongings.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy enacted martial law, which bans all male citizens between the ages 18 and 60 from leaving the country.

"In particular, it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine," the statement from country's State Border Guard Service said. "This regulation will remain in effect for the period of the legal regime of martial law. We ask the citizens to take this information into consideration."

Update 2/25/2022 at 3:00 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to provide information from Shabia Mantoo and additional background.

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Ukrainians Fleeing After Russian Invasion
Ukrainian citizens have started to flee the conflict in their country one day after Russia launched a military attack. Above, a woman with two children walks on a street to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj, on February 25. Peter Lazar/AFP/Getty Images