Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, millions of Ukrainians have fled their country and fled en masse to neighboring countries in Eastern and Central Europe. By March 31, more than 4 million, or about 10% of all Ukrainians, had left.
The massive scale and speed of the exodus out of Ukraine is unprecedented in recent European history and was last seen during World War II. The escalating refugee crisis highlights the welcoming attitudes of other European countries toward Ukrainian refugees, especially among nations that have historically taken an anti-refugee stance.
Understanding why Vladamir Putin invaded Ukraine is, in some ways, related to the destination of the refugees. In 2004, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine set the country on a new path, aligning itself politically and culturally with Western Europe rather than Russia. After the Kremlin-backed overthrow of Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, Putin seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, giving Russia control of the economically and militarily important naval base in Sevastopol.
Since then, Putin has sought other ways to regain control of Ukraine, stoking pro-Russian separatist movements in eastern Ukraine and circulating rumors that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s government is full. of neo-Nazis. Prior to the invasion, Ukraine drew closer to European powers such as the European Union and NATO. Just before invading, Putin claimed his goals were to “demilitarize” Ukraine, while officially recognizing pro-Russian separatist groups.
Today, Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to neighboring countries, many of which were also once part of the Soviet Union and have since joined NATO and the EU. Some analysts believe this shared history, as well as the common challenge to Putin, has led many Europeans to take in Ukrainian refugees. However, there is a marked difference in Europe’s reception of refugees from Ukraine compared to refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
According to a survey of 18,000 people in 15 European countries, factors such as religion, language skills and country of origin of potential refugees have an impact on the number of Europeans who assess who deserves to be granted security and asylum. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said this explicitly when he said of the Ukrainian refugees: “These people are Europeans. These people are smart, they are educated people. … This is not the wave of refugees we are used to…”
Other countries have also pledged to help Ukraine in its efforts to fight Russian forces and accept refugees. President Joe Biden announced $1 billion in military aid and promised the United States would accept up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the crisis. Germany broke its long-standing policy of not sending arms to conflict zones and promised to help Ukraine. The EU has granted Ukrainian refugees a temporary residence permit that spares them from having to apply for asylum in any EU member country, allowing them to move freely throughout Europe.
To determine which countries have taken in the most people fleeing Ukraine since the fighting began on February 24, Stacker compiled refugee data (last updated April 3) from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. . UNHCR compiles these statistics from several government sources in each country, primarily looking at border crossing data, but as the war between Russia and Ukraine is ongoing, these figures are only estimates and do not take into account ignore the refugees who have crossed from one country to another. The only exception is for refugees who crossed the border from Moldova to Romania.
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