This backgrounder explains the significance and risks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See each question and answer included in this backgrounder on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the bottom of this post.

Could This Produce A Refugee Crisis?

Absolutely. Europe has been struggling with refugee flows for the last decade, thanks to crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Just as the European Union appeared to gain ground on that front, a new crisis has opened up on the nations bordering Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already created the largest European refugee crisis since World War II.

On Friday, following the first day of the Russian invasion, the number of Ukrainians reported fleeing the country approached 50,000. Less than two weeks since the fighting began, the number of refugees who have fled Ukraine stands at more than 2 million according to the United Nations.

The bulk of these Ukrainians are fleeing to Poland, but Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania are also seeing large numbers. The United Nations has warned that up to 5 million Ukrainians could end up in refugee status as they flee across the border.

In the first weekend of the fighting, a nine-mile line jammed the border crossing to Poland. Most of the refugees are women and children. President Zelensky has banned Ukrainian men aged 18-60 from leaving the country. They are expected to take up arms and fight.

Many of the previous border restrictions imposed by European nations have been lifted due to the current crisis, but that can only go on for so long. Ukraine had one of the lower coronavirus vaccination rates, around 36% before Russia’s invasion. Many of these refugees may bring a new pandemic surge with them as they cross their neighbor’s national borders.

Germany’s Chancellor explained, “We are a European family, and families stand by each other.” Apparently, not everyone is included in that family. Several reports emerged over the weekend of Nigerian, Lebanese, and Indian residents of Ukraine not being allowed to cross the borders with other refugees fleeing the country. A video emerged on social media that showed African students not being allowed to board a train departing Ukraine so that Ukrainian could board instead.


Learn more about the background and facts behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine through this set of backgrounds and explanations. Subscribe to the blog to stay up to date when new backgrounders are posted.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at