A Christian Orthodox priest blesses Ukrainians who hold pussy-willow branches as they celebrate Orthodox Palm Sunday in Lviv, Ukraine. Photo by Mykola Tys/EPA-EFE
April 17 (UPI) -- Nearly five million refugees, which is more than 10% of the population have fled Ukraine for neighboring countries, data from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees showed on Sunday.
The data shows that 4,869,019 million have fled Ukraine since the start of the war on Feb. 24, mostly for Poland. That number is expected to pass the five million mark within just a few days based on recent trends in the refugee data. Ukraine's population is 44.13 million, according to World Bank in 2020.
The news comes as Russian forces allegedly fired on civilians and shelled a church in the Luhansk region on Easter Sunday just weeks after Russia was accused of executing civilians in Bucha, which had prompted international calls for war crime investigations.
Lyudmila Denisova, the country's human rights ombudsman, said in a statement Sunday that more than 100,000 civilians are suffering from food and water shortages in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
Of those who have left the country, more than 2.7 million have fled for Poland -- a member of the European Union's Schengen Area which allows people to move freely between countries. As such, it remains unclear how many refugees have since continued to other countries within Europe.
The data show that 459,000 refugees have fled to Hungary while 335,000 went to Slovakia, both of which are also in the Schengen Area. Another 739,000 refugees fled to Romania while 423,000 have fled to Moldova.
Kelly Clements, the deputy high commissioner of refugees, has said that countries around Europe such as Austria have also taken many refugees. About 235,000 people were reported to have reached Austria by April 1.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had already taken in more than 14,000 refugees from Ukraine and will continue to take "many, many more."
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said last month that estimates showed at least 10 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes in total counting those who have relocated within Ukraine.
"Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes," Grandi said.
Russian police have continued to arrest protesters opposing the war in Ukraine and subsequent "censorship" as news of the atrocities in Ukraine makes it through the country's media lockdown.
More than 214 people were detained in cities across Russia on Sunday, bringing the total of those arrested since the invasion began to 15,433, according to the independent human rights watchdog OVD-Info. More than 80 were arrested in Moscow alone.
The watchdog said that one woman was arrested in Red Square, which is within the eastern walls of the Kremlin, holding a banner.
"In our society now, it doesn't matter whether you are against the war or not. Even if you don't say anything, even if you force yourself to be silent, they will still take you away and put you in jail," protester Zlata Evropeitseva told OVD-Info.
"If you remain silent, nothing will change. All that remains is to scream."