230,000 flee homes in Ukraine crisis: UNHCR
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 230,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes amid Kiev's military operations against pro-Russia forces in the country’s volatile east.
Dan McNorton, the UNHCR spokesman, said Friday that nearly 100,000 people have escaped the conflict area to other Ukrainian regions, while some 130,000 others have fled to Russia.
McNorton underlined that the numbers are from July 18 and that the figures have risen in recent weeks.
"There are a variety of security concerns and a variety of reasons for people making the decision to leave their homes," McNorton said. Fears of being caught in the crossfire have been a major reason, he noted.
According to McNorton, there are a number of security concerns and a variety of reasons for residents to flee; however, one major reason was fears of being caught in the crossfire.
The UNHCR statement came one day after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officially described the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a civil war, urging the government and pro-Russia forces to respect the laws of conflict.
Ukraine launched military operations in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk in mid-April to crush the pro-Russia demonstrations there. Violence intensified in May after the two regions held local referendums, in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the ongoing military campaign in the country. Tens of thousands have been forced from their homes, with many escaping to Russia.