HUFFINGTON POST
09/02/2014 06:37 am ET Updated Nov 02, 2014

More Than 1 Million Ukrainians Displaced By Conflict: UN

* At least 260,000 displaced within Ukraine

* Some 814,000 Ukrainian nationals in Russia

* Tens of thousands in Baltics, Moldova, European Union

* Some flee on foot; others in European spas, with grandparents

* UN refugee chief Guterres warns crisis could destabilize region (adds quotes, details, byline)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Sept 2 (Reuters) - More than one million people have been uprooted by the conflict in Ukraine, including 260,000 within the country where further mass displacement is feared due to ongoing fighting, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Some Ukrainian nationals have fled by motorcycle to Russia, while others have escaped the crisis by spending the summer months at European spas or visiting grandparents, it said.

The total includes 814,000 Ukrainians now in Russia with various forms of status, as well as compatriots who have fled to Belarus, Moldova, the three Baltic states and European Union, a senior official of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

"It's safe to say you have over a million people now displaced as a result of the conflict, internally and externally together," Vincent Cochetel, director of the UNHCR's bureau for Europe, told reporters in Geneva.

"I mean 260,000 in Ukraine, it's a low estimate, 814,000 in Russia, then you add the rest ... Belarus, Moldova, the European Union."

Of 814,000 Ukrainian nationals who have entered Russia this year, 260,000 have applied for some sort of protective status, he said. The remaining 554,000 have arrived on the basis of a visa-free regime allowing them to stay up to 270 days, he added.

"We see them arriving sometimes by foot, by bus, by motorcycle," said Cochetel, recently returned from the region.

Within Ukraine, most people displaced by earlier fighting have returned to areas retaken by Kiev's army, Cochetel said.

"In terms of people leaving, recent arrivals over the last two days, we see less people coming from Luhansk and Donetsk city themselves. Is it attributable to more controls at checkpoints or people not able physically to cross through the lines, we don't know.

"The people that are arriving now are mainly arriving from Novoazovsk and Bezimenne where fighting was reported this morning, so it's close to the sea of Azov, it's on the road to Mariupol, so south of the Donetsk area," he added.

Russian troops are strengthening their positions in eastern Ukraine and using aid shipments to smuggle in arms and other supplies to separatist forces, Kiev's military said on Tuesday.

"RISK OF FURTHER EXODUS"

"In terms of the ongoing fighting, in Donetsk, Luhansk and in the south of Donetsk oblast (district), we very concerned about risk of further exodus," Cochetel said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is "very concerned about the risk of further displacement of major proportion in that part of the country", he said.

Guterres said in a statement: "If this crisis is not quickly stopped, it will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences, but it also has the potential to destabilize the whole region."

In all, 4,106 Ukrainians have applied for asylum in EU countries led by Poland, Germany and Sweden, UNHCR figures show. Some 380 Ukrainians have sought asylum in Belarus, but many more have gone to the former Soviet republic, it said.

"We have reached 20,000 for residence permits in Belarus, the authorities don't want to call them refugees, they have asked us not to call them refugees because we don't know what will happen to those people in the future.

"But that's the visible tip of the iceberg. We believe there are more people in Moldova," he said.

Ukrainian nationals have also gone to eastern Europe for summer months and their plans are unclear.

"You have Ukrainians also of Hungarian ethnicity, of Romanian ethnicity, of Slovak ethnicity. You have many of these people who have moved during the summer, we thought that is the seasonal movement, they go to spas, they visit relatives, kids going to their grandparents for the summer and then they will return. Are they returning?," Cochetel said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Dominic Evans)

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

09/06/2014 6:08 PM EDT

Factory Ablaze After Artillery Fire Near Mariupol

Reuters reports:

Prolonged artillery fire was heard late on Saturday to the east of the port of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, a Reuters reporter said, in what may be the first significant violation of a ceasefire declared little more than 24 hours earlier.

The reporter saw an industrial facility, a truck and a gas station ablaze in an area within the limits of Mariupol, a city of 500,000 people on the Sea of Azov near the Russian border.

The area had seen fierce fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists before the ceasefire took effect on Friday evening. It had been quiet since then until the artillery fire began late on Saturday.

"There has been an artillery attack. We received a number of impacts, we have no information about casualties," a Ukrainian officer told Reuters at the scene.

09/06/2014 6:03 PM EDT

Ukraine Battalion: Reports Of Civilian Casualties In Shelling

09/06/2014 6:00 PM EDT

#RussiaViolatedCeasefire Trends On Twitter

Twitter users are using the hashtag #RussiaViolatedCeasefire to blame Moscow for renewed violence in east Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian Ambassador to Sweden Eitvydas Bajarunas used the hashtag for call for more information, as rockets and shelling were reported in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

09/06/2014 5:43 PM EDT

Rockets Fired In Ukraine Amid Ceasefire

The Associated Press reports:

Witnesses in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are reporting sustained explosions outside the city and a volunteer battalion of Ukrainian fighters says Grad rockets are being fired at its positions.

The reports Saturday night come little more than a day after Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist rebels signed a cease-fire after more than four months of fighting in the country's east.

The cease-fire had appeared to largely been holding during much of the day.

But late Saturday, witnesses in Mariupol told The Associated Press by telephone that heavy explosions were coming from the city's eastern outskirts, where Ukrainian troops retain defensive lines against the rebels.

The volunteer Azov Battalion said on Facebook that their positions were hit by Grad rockets, but did not give details.

09/06/2014 4:49 PM EDT

Reports Of Shelling In Mariupol

BBC journalists Fergal Keane and Will Vernon in Ukraine's Mariupol say that shelling of the port city has resumed.

09/06/2014 12:21 PM EDT

ICRC Says Aid Trucks Forced Back By Shelling

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its aid trucks were forced to turn back on Saturday morning due to shelling in east Ukraine.

09/06/2014 10:59 AM EDT

Putin, Poroshenko Agree Cease-Fire Holding

Reuters reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko agreed on Saturday in a telephone call that a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was generally holding but said further steps were needed to make it more durable.

The ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists took effect on Friday evening, part of a wider peace plan aimed at ending five months of fighting in eastern Ukraine.

"(The two leaders) also stressed the need for the maximum involvement of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in monitoring the situation ... and for cooperation in providing Ukrainian and international humanitarian help," Poroshenko's office said in a statement.

09/06/2014 10:58 AM EDT

Rebel Leader: Prisoner Exchange To Take Place Saturday

A separatist leader said that the rebels and Ukrainian government will begin the exchange of prisoners of war, part of the peace roadmap, later on Saturday, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, Kiev said the details of the exchange were still being worked out.

09/05/2014 12:38 PM EDT

Peace Deal Outlined

New York Times Moscow bureau chief Neil MacFarquhar outlines the different aspects of the Ukrainian peace deal.

09/05/2014 12:18 PM EDT

Obama: Hopeful But Skeptical

Via Reuters:

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was hopeful but skeptical about a ceasefire agreed in Ukraine on Friday and urged European allies to agree on new sanctions against Russia that could be suspended if the peace plan holds.

He also said he was leaving a two-day NATO summit in Wales confident that U.S. allies were prepared to join a broad coalition to take action to degrade and ultimately destroy Islamic State militants in Iraq.

"We also sent a strong message to Russia that actions have consequences. Today the United States and Europe are finalizing measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions across Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors," Obama told a news conference.

NATO had made clear it would defend every ally, and that it supported Ukraine's sovereignty against what he called Russian aggression, he said.

"With respect to the ceasefire agreement, obviously we are hopeful but based on past experience also skeptical that in fact the separatists will follow through and the Russians will stop violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. So it has to be tested," the president said.