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UKRAINE

EU warns bloc nations to brace for millions of Ukraine refugees

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, the EU's executive warned on Sunday that Europe should be prepared for its biggest humanitarian crisis in years.

EU warns bloc nations to brace for millions of Ukraine refugees
A woman gives food to a woman carrying a child after Ukrainian refugees crossed the Ukrainian-Hungarian border in Tiszabecs, Hungary, on February 27, 2022. - Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022. The United Nations' refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is planning to deal with up to four million if the situation worsens. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

The number of refugees to enter Europe from Ukraine could reach around four million, the EU announced at a news conference in Brussels.

After interior ministers gathered for a special meeting of EU member states to discuss the crisis, leaders indicated that the need to intervene was becoming increasingly urgent.

“We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years. The needs are growing as we speak,” said Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

OPINION: This is Russia’s war, but we Europeans need to learn fast from our mistakes

He said the number of Ukrainians affected by the conflict in humanitarian terms could be 18 million within Ukraine itself, while seven million people are at risk of being internally displaced and four million could flee the country as refugees.

That’s a figure also echoed by the UN refugee agency.

More than 368,000 refugees, mainly women and children, have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries so far based on data from national authorities, the agency said on Sunday.
 
A large number of those escaping have crossed over into Poland, where the authorities have counted some 156,000 crossing since the invasion started early Thursday.
 

Romani people fleeing Ukraine arrive at facilities of the local Roma community after Ukrainian refugees crossed the Ukrainian-Hungarian border in Tiszabecs, Hungary, on February 27, 2022. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)
 
Border guards counted some 77,300 arrivals from Ukraine on Saturday alone. The refugees have arrived in cars, in packed trains and even on foot.
 
Germany’s rail operator said it will offer free train rides from Sunday to Ukrainian refugees travelling into the country from Poland. 
 
Up to six trains are running daily from Poland to Germany at the moment, Deutsche Bahn said, but it was preparing to increase that capacity “at short notice”.
 
 
Also on Sunday neighbouring Austria announced that its state railway company OeBB would offer free travel to those escaping the conflict.
 
Austrian Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler said in a tweet that she had agreed with OeBB that “Ukrainians who are fleeing will be able to use OeBB trains without tickets”.
 
“In these times it is important to help quickly and simply. That it exactly what we are doing,” she said.
 
Meanwhile, Italy is receiving its first refugees, Italian broadcaster Rainews reports.
 
 
Around fifty people made their way by bus, mainly women and children, as their husbands are said to be in Ukraine to fight.
 
After arriving at the Fernetti border in Trieste, police forces and guards carried out the border controls.
 
They are reportedly heading to friends’ or acquaintances’ homes, mainly in the north of Italy between Brescia, Vicenza and Milan. Some are also going to Rome.
 
Some 236,000 Ukrainians have residence in Italy – around 80 percent of those women, according to data from Italy’s national Institute of Statistics (ISTAT).

Member comments

  1. Canada should step up and take a few hundred thousand Ukranian refugees.
    Use this opportunity to meet its immigration targets for a couple of years.

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UKRAINE

REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?

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