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About half of the 2 million refugees who have fled Ukraine are children

Hungary Russia Ukraine War refugees children
Posted at 5:13 AM, Mar 09, 2022

ZAHONY, Hungary — Annamaria Maslovska left her friends, her toys and her life in Ukraine and set off on a days-long journey with her mother toward safety in the West.

They left after bombs started falling in her hometown of Kharkiv.

The 10-year-old aspiring actress is one of more than 1 million children who have fled Ukraine in the less than two weeks since Russia first invaded the country. That means children make up around half of the 2 million refugees that have fled Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Annamaria said in clear English that she is worried about her friends in Kharkiv who are not responding to her messages. She called her home city “a piece of her heart.”

Meanwhile, renewed efforts to rescue civilians from increasingly dire conditions in besieged and bombarded Ukrainian cities are underway.

Days of shelling have largely cut residents of the southern city of Mariupol off from the outside world and forced them to scavenge for food and water.

Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman at Ukraine’s U.N. Mission, accused Russia Tuesday of effectively holding civilians “hostage,” and says “the critical situation” in Mariupol and other cities and demanded immediate action by world leaders and humanitarian and medical organizations.

She told a U.N. Security Council meeting on women in conflict that civilians, mostly women and children, “are not allowed to leave and the humanitarian aid is not let in.”

“If they try to leave, Russians open fire and kill them,” Mudrenko said, her voice shaking with emotion. “They are running out of food and water, and they die.”

The Russian military has denied firing on convoys and charged that the Ukrainian side was blocking the evacuation effort.

Mudrenko said a 6-year-old girl died Monday in the besieged city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea, “alone in the last moments of her life as her mother was killed by Russian shelling.”

“Russian occupiers fired at a van with a group of female teachers of the local orphanage (and) three of them were killed,” Mudrenko said.

She said there are also “cases of child sexual violence committed by occupiers.”

Mudrenko said the war has highlighted the role of Ukrainian women in defending their country, saying there were 57,000 women in the army at the start of 2021, comprising 22.8% of the force.