ZURICH (Reuters) – A broader war in Ukraine could displace 15 million people, Switzerland’s justice minister said on Friday, citing estimates from the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
“If you assume the hostilities continue, that the Russian army advances more strongly in the West (of Ukraine), that perhaps there are escape corridors, then it could be that practically 1 million people leave the country each week,” Karin Keller-Sutter told a news conference in Bern on the Swiss approach to taking in refugees.
“There are now estimates from UNHCR that you have to reckon with around 15 million displaced persons — that is the highest number…It is said around half the population minus men who are of course in the armed forces and defending the country.”
A UNHCR spokesperson said the agency had not for now revised its initial projection for 4 million refugees leaving the country but it was closely following the situation.
United Nations agencies have said more than 2.5 million refugees have fled the fighting in Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24.
Moscow denies it has been targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to disarm and “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
(Reporting by Michael Shields and Emma Farge; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)