Russia invades Ukraine updates: Over 3.25 million flee Ukraine

Russia invades Ukraine updates: Over 3.25 million flee Ukraine
The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground in Ukraine and additional analysis on the conflict's significance.
15 min read
18 March, 2022

More than 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the United Nations said on Friday, with more than two million crossing the Polish border.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 3,270,662 people had joined the exodus since February 24, another 100,765 since Thursday's update.

"We have seen a general slowdown" in flow since the early days of the conflict, said UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh.

As for people still within Ukraine who have left their homes, "It's safe to assume the number is considerably higher than two million", he said.

However, "the pace and magnitude of the internal displacement and refugee exodus from Ukraine, as well as resulting humanitarian needs, will only increase if the situation deteriorates."

Some 90 percent of those who have fled are women and children. Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are eligible for military call-up and cannot leave.

The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground in Ukraine and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 

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11:57 AM
The New Arab Staff

The New Arab’s live coverage of the latest developments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine concludes for today.

Follow us on twitter to stay updated with news from the region.

11:50 AM
The New Arab Staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow, saying Ukraine wanted meaningful and honest negotiations on peace and security, without delay.

"I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk," he said in a video address released in the early hours of Saturday.

"The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia's losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover."

The two sides have been involved in talks for weeks and as of yet, there have been no signs of a breakthrough.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine wanted meaningful and honest negotiations on peace [Getty]
11:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukrainian sports legend Sergey Bubka fears for athletes' safety as he said on Friday that he was spending his time trying to locate Ukrainian athletes, fearing for their safety when the line of contact cuts out.

Former Olympic pole vault champion Bubka said some athletes were stuck in conflict-hit areas of the country following Russia's full-scale invasion which began on 24 February.

Bubka, who is the president of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, said he hoped to help as many athletes as possible, both inside and outside the country.

"I am wounded to my core by what is taking place in my country, and I am calling to put an urgent end to this war," he said in an interview published by the International Olympic Committee.

"I am spending every second of every day coordinating efforts... to identify where the athletes, coaches and their families are located, and then work out how we can best help them.

10:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukrainian specialists have repaired one of the damaged power lines to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the Interfax Ukraine agency quoted the national energy company as saying on Friday.

Three of the five power lines were damaged or disconnected after Russian troops took over the plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, earlier this month, Reuters reported.

Ukraine said that Russian forces attacked the plant in the early hours of 4 March, setting an adjacent five-story training facility on fire.

Kyiv says the line should be working early next week, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

9:40 PM
The New Arab Staff

Massive price spikes for food and energy sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine could push over 40 million people into extreme poverty, according to the the Centre for Global Development (CGDEV).

"Our analysis suggests at least 40 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by the 2022 price spike," CGDEV researchers wrote, as they warned against export curbs and sanctions on Russian food production.

The researchers said the most immediate concern was for direct wheat customers of Ukraine and Russia, which together account for more than a quarter of world wheat exports.

The direct consumers include Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey, Reuters reported.

9:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia's top negotiator at talks with Ukraine said on Friday that Moscow and Kyiv had brought their positions "as close as possible" on a proposal for Ukraine to become a neutral state amid Russia's invasion of the country, AFP reported.

The Kremlin on Wednesday said that a neutral Ukraine along the lines of Sweden or Austria was being discussed at talks with Kyiv to end three weeks of the Russian military operation there.

But Ukraine rejected the proposal, and said it wanted its security to be guaranteed by international forces, according to AFP.

"The topic of neutral status and Ukraine's non-accession to NATO is one of the key points of the talks, this is the point on which the parties brought their positions as close as possible," Russia's lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Friday.

Medinsky said that negotiators were "half-way" towards an agreement on the "demilitarisation" of Ukraine.

8:35 PM
The New Arab Staff

US President Joe Biden warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of "consequences" if Beijing offers support to Russia during its invasion of Ukraine, the White House said on Friday.

The comments came during a nearly two-hour phone call between the leaders of the world's two largest economies which touched on Ukraine, Taiwan and their own relationship.

"He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians," the White House said in a statement.

This comes as China has refused to condemn its ally, Russia, throughout its invasion of Ukraine.

Biden's warning comes as China has refused to condemn Russia [Getty]
8:05 PM
The New Arab Staff

The United Arab Emirates are ready to support all efforts aimed at reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, according to a UAE minister.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan affirmed his support to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call, Emirati state news agency WAM reported on Friday.

Al-Nayhan said there is a need to boost efforts to reach a ceasefire and intensify negotiations and dialogue between all parties to find a political solution to the crisis.

7:25 PM
The New Arab Staff

Refugees now fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine are "more traumatised" than those who escaped in the first phase of the war, the UN said on Friday.

The reason reportedly lies in the fact that the first wave of Ukrainian refugees often had contacts outside the country and a plan in mind regarding where they could go.

However, those fleeing Ukraine now are more likely to be lost as to what to do next, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said those fleeing now were in greater need of assistance.

"Those refugees who have been arriving have been more traumatised. They've been in shock, many of them. I think it's fair to say that they have fewer means than those who arrived in the earliest phase of this crisis."

More than 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the United Nations said on Friday, as the UN migration agency estimated that nearly 6.5 million people have now been displaced inside the country.

More than 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion [Getty]
6:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia's biggest cargo airline Volga-Dnepr Group has suspended all flights using Boeing aircraft due to Western sanctions, it said on Friday.

Sanctions have cut off the supply of most aircraft and parts to Russia. The United States and Europe have closed their airspace to Russian airlines, and Moscow has responded by imposing the same measure on them, Reuters report.

Volga-Dnepr said in a statement it had stopped operations of two of its subsidaries - AirBridgeCargo and Atran - that use 18 Boeing 747 and 6 Boeing 737 airplanes due to sanctions and a decision by Bermuda's Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) to terminate their safety certificates.

Russia has passed a law allowing the country's airlines to place aircraft leased from foreign companies on Russia's aircraft register - a manoeuvre likely to stoke Western fears of a mass default involving hundreds of jetliners, according to Reuters.

6:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

Italy has drawn up plans to take in up to 175,000 Ukrainian refugees, a draft decree seen by Reuters reportedly said.

The plan is expected to be approved by the cabinet later on Friday.

Some 53,600 Ukrainians have already arrived in Italy following Russia's invasion of their country on 24 Feb, according to interior ministry data.

More than 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the United Nations said on Friday.

The UN migration agency also estimates that nearly 6.5 million people have now been displaced inside Ukraine.

5:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kyiv of "war crimes" in a call with his French counterpart on Friday, saying that Moscow was doing "everything possible" to avoid civilian deaths in Ukraine.

"Attention was drawn to the numerous war crimes committed daily by the Ukrainian security forces, in particular massive rocket and artillery attacks on the cities of Donbas," the Kremlin said of the call between Putin and Emmanuel Macron.

Macron has made several attempts to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine [Getty]
5:28 PM
The New Arab Staff

"We have no evidence that the Russians are intent on escalating anything in Syria," US General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. 

"I don't see any evidence that the temperature is rising, particularly in Syria as a result of what's going on in Ukraine," McKenzie said, adding that the United States was watching it closely.

To read more about this story, click here. 

5:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

The UN migration agency estimates that nearly 6.5 million people have now been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country.

The estimates from the International Organization for Migration suggests Ukraine is fast on a course in just three weeks toward the levels of displacement from Syria’s devastating war – which has driven about 13 million people from their homes both in the country and abroad.

The findings come in a paper issued on Friday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It cited the IOM figures as “a good representation of the scale of internal displacement in Ukraine — calculated to stand at 6.48 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine as of March 16.”

4:40 PM
The New Arab Staff

Moscow and Kyiv are "halfway there" in agreeing on the issue of Ukraine's demilitarisation, and their views are most aligned on Ukraine's neutrality and giving up on joining NATO, Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky was quoted as saying on Friday.

Interfax news agency quoted Medinsky as saying negotiating teams trying to agree on ending hostilities in Ukraine were discussing nuances of security guarantees should Ukraine no longer attempt to join the Western military alliance.

He declined to reveal any other details of the talks.

4:37 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia is using the UN Security Council to spread disinformation and propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine, six Western members states said on Friday.

They made the allegation at a council meeting called at Russia's request to discuss its allegations that Ukraine is developing biological weapons.

"Russia is once again attempting to use this council to launder its disinformation, spread its propaganda, and justify its unprovoked and brutal attack on Ukraine," the six countries with seats on the council said in a statement read out by US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

3:53 PM
The New Arab Staff

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said war is "in no one's interest" during a phone call on Friday with Joe Biden in which the US president aimed to pressure Beijing into joining Western condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

China and the United States should "shoulder international responsibilities," Xi was quoted as saying, as well as declaring that "peace and security are the most valued treasures of the international community".

To read more about this story, click here. 


3:28 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia is looking to deploy Bashar al-Assad's regime troops to Ukraine, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

"More than 40,000 Syrians have registered to fight alongside Russia in Ukraine so far," said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the UK-based monitor The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

To read more about this story, click here. 

2:38 PM

The UN warned on Friday that humanitarian needs are becoming ever more urgent across war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, with a potentially fatal lack of food, water and medicines in besieged cities.

"The humanitarian situation in cities such as Mariupol and Sumy is extremely dire," Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, told reporters via video link from Poland.

Residents in those two cities, he warned, are "facing critical and potentially fatal shortages of food, water and medicines".

2:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin used a rally at a packed football stadium on Friday to justify the invasion of Ukraine, promising tens of thousands of people waving Russian flags that all the Kremlin's aims would be achieved.

"We know what we need to do, how to do it and at what cost. And we will absolutely accomplish all of our plans," Putin told a rally at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, one of the venues used for the 2018 FIFA World Club. 

He said the soldiers fighting in what Russia calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine had illustrated the unity of Russia.

"Shoulder to shoulder, they help each other, support each other and when needed they shield each other from bullets with their bodies like brothers. Such unity we have not had for a long time," he said.

Russian state television cut Putin's speech mid-sentence as he was addressing tens of thousands of supporters. 

As the Russian leader was addressing crowds, state television switched to showing a clip of patriotic music.

Putin was cut mid-sentence as he was saying: "It so happened that the beginning of the operation coincided by chance with the birthday of one of our outstanding military...".

Russian state television is tightly controlled and such interruptions are highly unusual.

1:11 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman said on Friday 130 people had been rescued so far from a bombed theatre in Mariupol but that there was still no information on more than 1,000 other people officials believe were sheltering there. 

Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said rescue work was ongoing at the site, which Ukraine says was hit by a powerful Russian airstrike on Wednesday. Russia has denied bombing the theatre or targeting civilians.

"Rescuers are working. There is only this information: 130 people are alive and have been taken out. The rest are waiting for help," said Denisova on national television.

12:44 PM
The New Arab Staff

More than 3.25 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the United Nations said on Friday. 

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 3,270,662 people had joined the exodus since February 24, another 100,765 since Thursday's update.

"We have seen a general slowdown" in flow since the early days of the conflict, said UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh.

As for people still within Ukraine who have left their homes, "It's safe to assume the number is considerably higher than two million", he said.

11:19 AM
The New Arab Staff

Saudi Arabia issued a royal directive extending tourist and business visas of Ukrainian citizens without fees or fines for humanitarian considerations, state news agency SPA said on Friday.

The extension will be automatic without the need to visit the migration authorities.

11:15 AM
The New Arab Staff

A former Russian deputy prime minister who spoke out against the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine has quit as the chair of a prestigious foundation.

The resignation came after a lawmaker accused him of "national betrayal" and demanded his dismissal.

Arkady Dvorkovich, deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2018, is one of Russia's most senior establishment figures to question the war when he told US media that his thoughts were with Ukrainian civilians.

His comments prompted a senior ruling party lawmaker to demand that he be fired and to accuse him of being part of a "fifth column" undermining Russia.

Dvorkovich was the chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation, a technology hub [Getty]
10:48 AM
The New Arab Staff

Washington said US President Joe Biden will warn his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of the "costs" if Beijing helps Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

The two leaders are scheduled to talk on Friday morning US time in their first summit meeting since a video call in November.

The talks come just two days after Biden branded Vladimir Putin a "war criminal". To read more about this story, click here. 

10:47 AM
The New Arab Staff

A World Food Programme official said on Friday that food supply chains in Ukraine were collapsing, with a portion of infrastructure destroyed and many grocery stores and warehouses now empty.

Jakob Kern, WFP Emergency Coordinator for the Ukraine crisis, expressed concern about the situation in "encircled cities" such as Mariupol, saying that supplies were running out and that its convoys had not yet been able to enter the city. 

10:41 AM
The New Arab Staff

Poland's border guards say that more than two million refugees have crossed into the EU member from neighbouring Ukraine since February 24. 

Poland has received more than half of the refugees fleeing the country after Russia invaded. Others have fled to fellow neighbours such as Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. A smaller proportion has travelled across Europe to countries such as Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom. 

9:46 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a phone call on Friday that Kyiv was attempting to stall peace talks with Russia but that Moscow was still keen to continue negotiations.

"It was noted that the Kyiv regime is attempting in every possible way to delay the negotiation process, putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals," the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

"Nonetheless the Russian side is ready to continue searching for a solution in line with its well-known principled approaches."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Scholz this week [Getty]
8:52 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russian troops and their separatist allies were fighting on Friday in the centre of Mariupol, a strategic port city in the southeast of Ukraine, the Russian defence ministry said.

"In Mariupol, units of the Donetsk People's Republic, with the support of the Russian armed forces, are squeezing the encirclement and fighting against nationalists in the city centre," the ministry said in Moscow.

The Mariupol authorities have said that around 30,000 people fled the besieged port city, adding that "80 percent of residential housing was destroyed".

To read more about Mariupol on The New Arab website, click here. 

8:48 AM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians on Friday through nine humanitarian corridors from cities and towns on the front line of fighting with Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. 

There have been several attempts to establish humanitarian corridors for civilians fleeing the escalating violence in Ukraine. Kyiv and Moscow have previously blamed each other when some corridors failed to ensure people's safety. 

8:42 AM
The New Arab Staff

One person was killed and four wounded after parts of a Russian missile fell on a residential building in the northern part of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday, emergencies services said.

The services said in a statement that 12 people were rescued and 98 were evacuated from the 5-storey building. 

Kyiv has been attacked by Russian forces for several days, with suburban residential areas targeted repeatedly. Half the population has fled since the Russian invasion began, the city's mayor Vitali Klitschko said. 

Russian attacks have destroyed several residential buildings in Kyiv [Getty]