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Russia Ukraine conflict

EU sets up humanitarian hubs to help Ukrainians in Poland, Romania, Slovakia

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The EU is setting up humanitarian hubs to help Ukraine in eastern member countries Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and is preparing to tap medical stockpiles to send, it said Friday.

Additionally, it is providing help for EU countries taking in the more than one million refugees streaming out of the war-wracked country, the European Commission said in a statement.

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“These hubs will help channel the assistance being delivered from 27 European countries via the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism,” it said.

“This illegal and unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine is amounting to a humanitarian catastrophe not seen in decades in Europe,” the EU’s commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said.

While more than a million refugees have fled from Ukraine to neighboring countries, “considerably more people are still in need of protection inside Ukraine,” he said.

He called for “humanitarian corridors that ensure the free and safe movement of civilians and delivery of humanitarian aid” to be set up.

The International Committee of the Red Cross stressed that the Geneva Conventions required warring parties to protect people.

“That means sparing the civilian population from military operations. They should also immediately allow safe passage for people fleeing the fighting,” ICRC president Peter Maurer said in a statement.

Ukrainian officials on Thursday won agreement from Russian counterparts to set up such corridors. One Russian negotiator in those talks, nationalist lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, said they would be “implemented in the near future” without giving a timeline.

Lenarcic said that “it is imperative that civilians are protected and humanitarian workers can do their jobs in safety and without impediments, as obliged by international humanitarian law.”

On Thursday, EU interior ministers agreed to offer blanket temporary protection to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

The measure allows Ukrainians and stateless refugees escaping into the EU the right to live, work and study in the European Union for up to two years.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said Friday: “We encourage all EU Member States to take an inclusive approach and grant these groups Temporary Protection.”

It noted that the mechanism allows Ukrainians to move to various EU countries rather than stay in the one in which they entered the bloc.

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