Tuesday, January 31

UN official: There are 520,000 refugees from Ukraine in neighboring countries

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There are currently 520,000 refugees from Ukraine in neighboring countries and the figure has been rising “exponentially, hour after hour,” Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told the UN Security Council on Monday.

Grandi, who addressed the council via teleconference from Geneva, said he has worked in refugee crises for almost 40 years and has “rarely seen such an incredibly fast-rising exodus of people — the largest, surely, within Europe, since the Balkan wars.”

“Over 280,000 have fled to Poland. Another 94,000 to Hungary, nearly 40,000 are currently in Moldova; 34,000 in Romania, 30,000 in Slovakia; tens of thousands in other European countries. We are also aware that a sizeable number have gone to the Russian Federation,” Grandi said.

Grandi said the UN’s humanitarian workers have been relocated and military attacks might force them to move again. 

“The situation is moving so quickly, and the levels of risk are so high by now, that it is impossible for humanitarians to distribute systematically the aid, the help that Ukrainians desperately need,” Grandi said. “Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected and spared, and humanitarian access must be granted for those delivering aid to those impacted by war. A failure to do so will compound the already extraordinary levels of human suffering,” he said

Ukrainian ambassador to US says House is on “the same page” with Ukraine

Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, left today’s meeting with US House members of the Ukrainian caucus feeling that they were on “the same page,” with the House. 

“We have very good understanding,” she added. 

“The United States has been very helpful in helping us supplying the financial assistance, defensive military assistance, but also being a great leader of the anti-war coalition on sanctions. And we just discussed what are we doing now, what can we do more, and we can continue doing more on all of this,” Markarova said.

Asked what more the United States can do, Markarova emphasized Ukraine’s need for more weapons and the continuation of sanctions against Russia. “We work actively with the administration, the President, and also with Congress on getting more weapons, so we need more weapons,” she told reporters. “And we are not asking anyone to fight for us, we are defending our country ourselves. But we need all the support that all civilized world can give us to actually continue effectively fighting, and also sanctions,” she said.

She added, “We believe Russia, which is now acting like Nazi Germany in WWII, essentially killing innocent civilians — today they shot into a again into not only residential areas but also the orphanages and schools and kindergartens, horrible — they have to pay the price. They have to be isolated.”

Leaving the meeting, Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley told reporters that what they heard from the ambassador was “a message of thanks and appreciation,” and added, “they need more sanctions and they need more supplies.”

“I want to give the administration a lot of credit, and I think the ambassador just did,” he said, “of unifying the West, and moving forward on sanctions that work, and supplying them with materials they need.”

Quigley emphasized he believes the ambassador’s message is, “When you’re dealing with this kind of threat, hope and prayers matter. But when you’re dealing with Putin, hope and a Stinger and a Javelin are even better.”

His colleague, Rep. Brad Sherman, seconded this. “They would like more. I think they are thankful for what we’re doing, and it appears as if we are doing not only the right amount of money for now, but the right mix of weapons,” he said.

“Obviously the Ukrainians would like us to do everything,” said Sherman. “That includes a no-fly zone. But frankly, a no-fly zone means dog fights between American and Russian pilots, and that’s dangerous.”

Later, he noted, “certainly in the back of my mind as others discussed the no-fly zone was the fact that once you have Americans shooting at Russians and Russians shooting at Americans, you are down a very dangerous road.” Sherman noted that the Ukrainians pushed for this option, but he sees it as “one step too dangerous.”

Asked about energy proposals discussed in the meeting, Sherman said, “We talked about strengthening the sanctions by preventing the entire world from buying oil and natural gas. Obviously from a Ukrainian standpoint, that’s an important step. It’s not a step that our European friends have been willing to take.”

A member of Ukraine’s Rada, or parliament, was also in attendance, Alexandra Ustinova.

“We are very grateful for all the support Ukraine gets right now and receives from the international community and from the United States who are the driving, leading force in protecting Ukraine,” she told reporters, “But unfortunately we need more help with every passing day, because we understand Putin becomes more aggressive, and something that seemed impossible a week ago to the whole normal world is a reality to my country today,” Ustinova said.

Biden remains committed to keeping US troops out of Ukraine conflict, White House press secretary says

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to call for a no fly zone in Ukraine, the White House said Monday afternoon that US President Joe Biden remains firm in his commitment to keep US troops out of the conflict.

“The President has been very clear that he is not intending to send US troops to fight a war with Russia. And I think what’s important to note here is that is essentially what this would be a step toward, because a no fly zone would require implementation,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“It would require deploying US military to enforce, which would be a direct conflict, potentially a direct conflict, and potentially a war with Russia, which is something we are not planning to be a part of,” she said.

Other US officials have also said US enforcing a no fly zone in Ukraine is currently off the table. 

US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration “has made clear” the US will not “put boots on the ground,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

“We’re not going to put American troops in danger. That means we’re not going to put American troops in the air as well, but we will work with the Ukrainians to give them the ability to defend themselves.”

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