Medical aid crisis for 1m anguished refugees

Ukraine: Kuleba reports 'women being raped' by Russian soldiers

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THE relentless bombing of Ukraine is leaving refugee centres across eastern Europe in need of ­specialist ­medical equipment, aid workers warn. The number of casualties is rising among the exodus of more than one million Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s indiscriminate attacks. And as diplomats from both nations agreed to establish “humanitarian ­corridors” to allow civilians to flee war zones, ­volunteers appealed for first-aid kits, including painkilling pills, bandages and plasters.

Red Cross volunteer Monica Koculak, 34, is Polish but lived in Ukraine. She left her home in Lviv in the west to help at a refugee border centre at Przemysl, Poland, where the Daily Express spent the morning yesterday.

She said: “We are looking at getting more specialised hospital equipment. We are also supporting the Ukrainian Red Cross with the transportation of medical goods, bandages and tents.

“If anyone asks us how to help, please send money to charities helping people – not just stuff.

“Today, at 11.44am we may need bandages. By 12.44 we will be flooded and we will need something else.” Mass deliveries of donated food, clothes and toys have eased some of the pressure on Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania.

But Vladimir Putin’s invasion has already sparked a humanitarian crisis.

And there has been outrage at exit routes being blocked or destroyed by missile attacks on key infrastructure, including train stations.

Ukraine’s presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, confirmed it was working with Russia to establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians and deliver food and medicine to the areas most affected by shelling and conflict.

President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted his government was doing all it could to provide relief, saying: “Our guys on the ground are working hard to organise ‘green corridors’.”

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN ­refugee agency, added: “For many ­millions more, inside Ukraine, it’s time for guns to fall silent, so that ­life-saving humanitarian assistance can be provided.”

In Przemysl, one woman helped by volunteers sat on a chair in a ­corridor surrounded by hundreds of other families. Maryna Kaftan, 44, wept as she described seeing Russian and Ukrainian troops killing each other in the streets of northern Kyiv.

She and her 18-year-old daughter hid in their bathroom for four days.

Maryna said: “I saw lots of corpses. Overnight, it moved from a European capital to a war zone. Russian soldiers tried to invade our home and our soldiers fought them.

“What could I do? I cannot shoot.”

Volunteer Monica described how tired and traumatised people are by the time they reach the Polish border.

She said: “People are absolutely exhausted. They are often driving, walking and trying ­different means of getting over the border. They wait 20, 30, 40 hours just queuing.” Aid ­workers now fear huge numbers could be stranded in Ukraine as petrol ­supplies run down and trains are cancelled – leaving tens of thousands with far fewer options.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s tactics have switched from a lightning assault to a horrific aerial bombing campaign and “medieval” siege tactics.

Monica added: “People don’t speak much about what they’ve seen. It’s too traumatic. They say the crossing was very difficult.

“But they are very proud of their country. They are very grateful for the help they are getting.

“Even I am surprised with all the help that is ­coming our way – money, lots of food, diapers, clothes, toiletries, anything that might be useful for someone who has just grabbed a ­backpack and fled their home.

“Every hour we are more co-ordinated, more organised. As well as food we have transport links, passports, sim cards so people can call their families.

“The most difficult thing is coordinating and getting help from other Polish centres. We know best what we need.”

The 2015 refugee crisis saw 1.3 ­million try to reach Europe from war-torn nations including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The exodus from Ukraine is set to dwarf that. More than half of those who have left so far – nearly 548,000 – have fled to Poland which shares a 500km ­border with Ukraine. A further 133,000 have gone to Hungary, 72,000 to Slovakia, 51,260 to Romania and nearly 98,000 to non-EU Moldova.

All passenger trains travelling from east to west are being used only for evacuation, the Ukrainian railway ­company confirmed yesterday.

In all cases, authorities and volunteers have met exhausted people at border crossings after bus and train journeys that take days. They serve food to the newcomers or guide them to shelters. Many take strangers into their homes.

They are also receiving orphans and treating the sick in hospitals, including children with cancer.

For Poles, Russia’s attack evokes memories of their invasion in 1939 by Nazi Germany and later the Soviet Union. Monica said: “I can’t let myself feel all the emotions I wish to feel. I have to freeze and just act.”

because there’s so much human tragedy.”

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