UN says 110,000 have fled to Russia from Ukraine
Some 110,000 people have fled to Russia from Ukraine while more than 54,000 have been displaced inside the conflict-torn country, the UN said Friday.
"Since the start of 2014, 110,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Russia," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency, adding that most were thought to be from the east of the country.
"Of those 110,000, only 9,500 have requested asylum. Most people are seeking other forms of legal stay, often because they're concerned about complications involving seeking asylum or since there might be reprisals if they return to Ukraine," she said, without elaborating.
Most of those who have fled are clustered in the western Russian cities of Rostov-on-Don and Bryansk, near the Ukrainian border, Fleming told reporters without saying wether the numbers were ethnic Ukrainian or ethnic Russian.
Within Ukraine itself, 16,400 people have fled their homes in the east in the past week alone, taking the total number of internally-displaced to 54,400, she said.
Militants from Ukraine's Russian-speaking community rose up after the February ouster of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukoyvch by a coalition of pro-Western groups and nationalists.
He was forced from power after months of protests following his last-minute decision not to sign a deal cementing the economically-embattled, ex-Soviet republic's ties with the European Union.
Instead, he opted to turn to former master Moscow for economic backing, sparking uproar in the pro-Western camp.
Ukraine's new leadership signed an agreement with the European Union on Friday.
Moscow annexed Ukraine's strategic Crimea peninsula in March, mainly populated by Russian speakers and long home to Russian military bases.
At least 12,000 members of Crimea's Muslim Tatar community have fled to other parts of Ukraine since the annexation, according to the UN.
Russia denies claims that it is stoking strife by sending in men and weapons to Russified eastern Ukraine, where government forces have been battling rebels for weeks.
Fleming said that relatively few Ukrainians have so far sought a haven in countries to the west of their homeland.
A total of 700 have so far applied for asylum in Poland, Belarus, the Czech Republic and Romania, she said.
© 2014 AFP