BUCHAREST, Romania – Romania is preparing to receive up to a half a million potential refugees from Ukraine in case of a Russian invasion, Defence Minister Vasile Dincu said on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.
The U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday it had not seen an increased movement of people fleeing Ukraine, but eastern European governments and towns near the Ukrainian border were making preparations to take people in, if needed.
‘There are several estimates, but we could receive over 500,000 refugees, that is…the number for which we have prepared alongside the interior ministry and other institutions’, Dincu told reporters.
‘There is a plan prepared for all large cities, there are areas for this near the borders’.
Romania, a European Union and NATO member state, has a 600 – kilometre (370 – mile) border with Ukraine, but saw relatively few Ukrainian refugees in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.
‘We are also not expecting a major influx coming here now, but one never knows’, Dincu said.
Earlier this month, Interior Minister Lucian Bode said authorities were working on a plan which include temporary mobile camps in northeastern Romanian border countries.
The Romanian Coalition for Migrant and Refugee Rights said last week that clarity and transparency were needed to prepare for a ‘potential deterioration of the situation in Ukraine and subsequent rise in numbers of migrants at Romania’s northern border’.