The exodus was already the largest movement of people in Europe since World War II and the U.N. refugee agency had previously estimated four million people could be driven from the country as a result of Russia’s invasion.
Though the scale of humanitarian flight has slowed in recent days, UNHCR also said many millions have been displaced within Ukraine, with 10.5 million people uprooted either within the country or forced abroad. Some 12 million are trapped in areas affected by the war and unable to leave, the agency said.
In almost five weeks since President Vladimir Putin began his assault on Ukraine, some 4,019,287 people—most of them women and children—have escaped the fighting. A law in Ukraine imposed at the start of the invasion prevents men of fighting age from leaving the country.
Most of the refugees have crossed into neighboring Poland where, by Wednesday, about 2.4 million had arrived, according to the Polish border guard. Hundreds of thousands of others have escaped to Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania.
Before Russia’s invasion, Polish authorities thought the influx of Ukrainians into Poland would top out at one million people, over the course of the war.
Visa-free travel in the European Union makes it difficult to track where refugees have gone from their first destination after leaving Ukraine, but the UNHCR estimates that a large number have done so. For example, of the 385,000 refugees who arrived in Moldova since the war began on Feb. 24, some 287,300 have since moved on, the agency says.
The EU has granted Ukrainian refugees the right to live and work in the bloc for up to three years. More than 350,000 people have left Ukraine for Russia.
The tide of refugees from Ukraine has ebbed in recent days. The number crossing into Poland was 22,400 on Tuesday, down from a peak of 140,877 on March 6. The numbers going into Moldova have also leveled off at around 2,000 a day in the past week, compared with around 20,000 a day at the start of the month.
There are virtually no refugee camps in Poland, aside from a handful of convention centers and stadiums that the Polish government terms “reception centers,” where a few thousand of the millions who have entered Poland sleep. Instead, Poland is counting on relatives, friends and volunteers to house the newcomers. That arrangement is becoming increasingly hard to sustain, however, as the rate of people arriving outpaces the number of beds available, Polish officials say. In a poll conducted by UNHCR and Intersos, a nonprofit organization, of 215 Ukrainian refugees in Poland, 41% said they intended to return to Ukraine and 29% said they hadn’t decided whether to do so. Over 20% said they intended to move to another country.
Some people though are going back to Ukraine, whether to fight or for personal reasons. Some 550,000 Ukrainians—mostly men—have returned to the country since the start of the war, according to Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The reason for their return isn’t recorded at the border, he said. But many have expressed that they are unable to stay away while their country is at war with Russia “and are coming back to speed up the end of Russian aggression either as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or in other ways,” Mr. Demchenko said.
President Biden at the weekend pledged that the U.S. would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. Officials are looking at a range of legal pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, for refugees from the war-torn country to enter America. After meeting with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw on Saturday, Mr. Biden was asked what he thought of what Mr. Putin had done to them. “He’s a butcher. That’s what it makes me think,” Mr. Biden said.
In Germany, to accommodate arrivals from Ukraine, authorities have reopened refugee shelters that were used in 2015-16, at the height of the Syrian war.
The U.K., which has been criticized for not acting faster to take in more refugees, is offering 350 pounds, equivalent to $456, a month to people who host a Ukrainian refugee in their home and hasn’t set an upper limit on figures.
—Maryna Dubyna contributed to this article.
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