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Tide of Ukrainian refugees grows as more than 1.7 million flee to Central Europe: UN

People rush to an evacuation train at the central train station in Odessa, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations says more than 1.7 million people have so far crossed Ukraine into Central Europe as Moscow’s ongoing military operation.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said a total of 1,735,068 people, mostly women and children, have so far crossed the Ukraine’s border into Central Europe.

Poland alone has received more than 1 million Ukrainian refugees since Russia launched a “military operation” in the country on February 24.

“Today at 20:00 the number of people who escaped from Ukraine to Poland exceeded one million," the Polish border guard service tweeted late on Sunday.

"This is a million human tragedies, a million people banished from their homes by the war,” it added.

The Polish government plans to create a $1.75 billion fund to help refugees from Ukraine, a government official said on Monday.

The European Union, which has received most of the refugees, could see as many as 5 million Ukrainian refugees if the military conflict continues, the bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned.

Hundreds of thousands of people, however, are trapped without food and water in the port city of Mariupol, where there is also no electricity.

Moscow announced a new "humanitarian corridors" to transport Ukrainians trapped in Kharkiv, Kiev, Mariupol and Sumy to Russia and Belarus, but Ukraine, rejected the proposal, saying it “is not an acceptable option.

Russia made the offer after efforts to transport civilians from Mariupol failed when both Moscow and Kiev accused each other of violating the ceasefire they agreed on Friday.

Roads in Ukraine's 'humanitarian corridor' mined: ICRC

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that so-called humanitarian corridors set to lead civilians out of the town were mined.

The director of operations at the ICRC, Dominik Stillhart, said a team from the agency is working on the ground in Mariupol.

"As soon as they reached the first checkpoint, they realized that the road that was indicated to them was actually mined,” Stillhart said.

He urged both sides of the conflict to come to an immediate agreement on the exact routes and times available for civilians seeking safe passage out of the country.

"So far we have seen, unfortunately, only agreements in principle. But they have immediately broken down because they lack precision," he told BBC radio.

"They lack the kind of... agreements over times, over roads, over whether people can go out or goods can come in," he added.

Russia's chief negotiator in talks with Ukraine has previously accused Kiev of using the civilians as "a human shield" which he said was “undoubtedly a war crime."

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