Officials in the UK warned that Ukrainian civilians will not be spared as Russian forces attacked along a broad front in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as part of a full-scale ground offensive to take control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland.
Speaking at a briefing on the humanitarian effort in Ukraine, a UK official said there is great concern for residents in east Ukraine in close proximity to frontline fighting in what officials called a “new phase of the war”.
According to the official, 12 million Ukrainian people have been displaced including 4.9 million into neighbouring countries and 7.1 million people internally.
The UN estimates that over a million more people will be displaced into neighbouring countries as the Ukraine government urges residents to leave the east amid Russia’s latest assault on the region.
“Civilians will not be spared,” the UK official told the briefing. “This is a very very dangerous war for civilians to be caught up in.
“There’s clear there’s been widespread attack and use of weaponry that is indiscriminate.”
While residents have been urged to leave the east however, the officials said there has been an influx of civilians returning to Ukraine with 700,000 refugees returning to the country, including “tens of thousands” of civilians to Kyiv daily to “reconnect with their families”.
The stepped-up assaults began on Monday along a front of more than 300 miles, focused on the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, with the Russian forces trying to advance in several sections, including from neighboring Kharkiv.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that Ukraine remains in a “perilous” position amid the fighting in the east.
Ministers were briefed by a senior national security official who said the next phase of the war – focusing on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine – was likely to be “an attritional conflict” which could last “several months”.
Mr. Johnson – who stressed the need to step up international support to Ukraine – is due to discuss the latest situation in a conference call with US President Joe Biden and European and Canadian leaders on Tuesday.
UK officials also warned of the growing concerns of failing humanitarian corridors with “three quarters” of the efforts to deliver aid convoys into besieged cities failing.
“There have been quite a few attempts to get convoys into cities to date, so the UN and the Red Cross have been working hard with government,” the UK official told the briefing.
“I would say probably about three quarters of them haven’t been successful, which just shows you how difficult it is to get agreements to allow basically corridors of people out and food in.”
The most pressing humanitarian issues are around access to food, shelter, medicines, mental health and psychological support, supporting survivors of sexual violence, and de-mining in areas where Russian forces have withdrawn.
They are also concerned about the “most desperate” civilians, such as the elderly and disabled, who will find it difficult to leave their homes and therefore will be “caught up in the fighting”. (Source: Independent UK)