Ukraine and Poland opened two new pedestrian refugee crossings overnight, reducing the long queues of people fleeing on foot, according to Deputy Interior Minister Mary Akopyan.
“There are still a lot of cars,” she told the Kyiv Independent. “But the pedestrian queues are no longer so extreme.”
On Feb. 28, almost 108,000 people and 15,000 vehicles crossed Ukraine’s western borders, a 10% drop from the previous day’s numbers, Akopyan said. Currently there are about 8,000 cars in the queues.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Feb. 28 that about 520,000 people had fled the country into bordering nations like Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia since the start of Russia’s invasion.
Thousands more have been trying to get through the clogged borders, waiting for hours in cars or on foot, with only minimal belongings.
Akopyan recommended for people thinking of crossing into Poland to consider other neighboring countries to reduce the load.
Meanwhile, 80,000 Ukrainians returned to the country, most of them men, to join the fight against Russia, the deputy minister said.
CNN reported that foreign students trying to leave the country experienced racist treatment by Ukrainian security forces and border officials, with some being ordered off buses so only Ukrainians could evacuate the country. CNN also reported allegations of violence towards foreigners attempting to leave.
Akopyan denied that border guards have taken part in the above. She added that if these incidents happened, they may have been perpetrated by Territorial Defense units or “self-organized” groups that don’t understand that foreign men are allowed to leave the country.
Other media, including the New York Times reported similar problems for foreigners trying to exit the country.