Ukraine: Tens of thousands flee into Poland every day amid Russian shelling

STV News visits sports centre in Poland that has been turned into a home for hundreds of refugees escaping the conflict.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees are crossing the border into Poland every day, with the humanitarian crisis intensifying amid ongoing Russian shelling.

Western officials warned of their “serious concern” on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use chemical weapons in Ukraine to commit further atrocities during the invasion.

Their assessment was that an “utterly horrific” attack on the capital of Kyiv could come as Russian forces overcome the logistical issues suspected of delaying their attacks.

The warnings came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said children were among those under the wreckage of a “direct strike” at a maternity hospital in the southern port city of Mariupol.

Across the border in Poland, people who are helping with the relief effort told STV News they “can’t do it on their own”, and that extra support is needed as more and more people arrive.

A school sports centre in the village Medyka has been turned into a home for hundreds of refugees.

Among them is Victoria and her nine-year-old son.

She told STV News: “Some of my friends (at home in Ukraine) died and there is a humanitarian crisis – lots of people don’t have water, food, there is no light, internet and mobile connection.

“We are happy we are here, we are happy we are alive but we hope to come back home soon.”

Around 170 refugees are currently sleeping at the centre. More than 4000 have used the facility since the start of the conflict – it’s a place for many to rest and recuperate before planning their next steps.

Just a few miles along the road in Przemysl, more than 35,000 people are arriving every day, more than half the city’s population.

The mayor, Wojciech Bakun, says he’s proud of the local people for their response.

He said: “I just said to people, we need help and after one hour we have maybe 500 volunteers, so it’s a huge response.”

A former supermarket in the city is also hosting refugees.

Alexandra Paczkowska started volunteering on Tuesday night. She said: “I came here to help because, for me, as a mum it’s heart-breaking that the women are here without anything; they are leaving their homes and no words to say.”

Gabriella Cabaj is also among those helping. Having lived in Inverness for 10 years, she is coordinating some of the aid effort from Scotland.

“I’m trying to help organise some transport from Scotland and England – I’ve got friends over there as well,” she told STV News.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, a charity boss told MPs that the UK Government is prioritising “paperwork over people” in its response to the Ukraine refugee crisis.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, urged ministers to urgently waive visa applications for people fleeing war-torn Ukraine in what he described as the “worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War”.

It comes as Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford suggested a further 1000 visas will be granted to Ukrainian refugees on Wednesday.

Solomon told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re in a very good place. We’re looking at the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, we have a scheme in place that’s only issued hundreds of visas to allow Ukrainians to come here.

“We have Ukrainians queuing up in Calais, at the visa application centre in Poland, unable to access documentation.

“And I think the Government is making a fundamental error here. It’s not adopting a ‘refugees first’ approach, which it should be adopting. It seems to be adopting an approach which is ‘paperwork over people’ – people who have lost everything through no fault of their own.”

Iryna Terlecky, of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, called on ministers to make the process as “simple as possible”, adding: “People didn’t choose to be put in this situation and they need to be helped out of it as quickly, as compassionately, as possible.

“There really needs to be a very significant, not only ramping up of resource but actually a ramping up of simplicity and compassion.”

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