Over 2 million people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday (March 8). However, the European Union predicts that as many as 5 million people may escape the country if Russia continues with its attack.
The news arrives after the first safe corridor for civilian evacuations opened in the northeast city of Sumy. Evacuations successfully began on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials confirmed, following a deadly air assault by Russian forces on Monday night (March 7).
“The first stage of civilian evacuation from Sumy has just begun,” the Ukrainian communication agency wrote on Twitter. “The Russian Defense Ministry has officially agreed to the humanitarian corridor in a letter to the Red Cross.”
In a video statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared he is “staying in Kyiv” and has no intention of leaving his war-torn country.
“[I’m] not hiding and I’m not afraid of anyone,” he said. “For as long as it takes to win this war!”
U.S. President Joe Biden is also expected to announce the banning of Russian oil imports as soon as today in an effort to increase sanctions pressure on the Russian economy.
In a statement, the White House said Biden will “announce actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Shell also announced it would stop buying crude oil from Russia and withdraw from the country’s hydrocarbons — which includes oil, natural gas and petroleum products — “in a phased manner.”
So far, the United Nations Office of Human Rights has reported at least 1,335 civilian casualties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. However, the agency said the true death toll is likely “considerably higher, especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days…”