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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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ENERGY

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Italian energy company Eni confirmed it is opening accounts in rubles with Gazprombank to pay for gas supplies, complying with Moscow's demands.

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Eni said in a statement on Tuesday it was opening accounts in rubles and euros with Gazprom Bank “on a precautionary basis” as “deadlines for the payment of gas supplies are scheduled for the next few days”.

It was not immediately clear whether the move would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

READ ALSO: Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

Vladimir Putin demanded at the end of March that payment be made in rubles or the gas supply to European countries would be cut off, as he hit back at sanctions placed on Russia by EU countries following its invasion of Ukraine.
 
Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi said at the time that his company would not comply with the demands, saying “Eni doesn’t have rubles” and “the contracts say fuel payments should be made in euros”.
 
But many European companies and their lawyers have since been looking at ways to meet the demand without breaching sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine, reports Bloomberg.
 
EU officials had said opening a ruble account would breach sanctions. But its latest guidelines, to be published this week, are expected to stop short of banning bank accounts in rubles and  therefore allow companies to keep buying Russian gas, Bloomberg reports.
 
 
Like other European countries, Italy says it is working to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports in the wake of the Ukraine war.
 

But the Italian government has so far resisted calls to boycott Russian oil and gas.

Italy is highly dependent on Russian gas, importing 95 percent of the gas it consumes, of which around 40 percent comes from Russia.

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