GENEVA, February 6. /TASS/. Some 1.6 million people have become refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the conflict in south-east Ukraine, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported Friday.
"Ukraine's Ministry of Social Policy puts the number of registered IDPs countrywide at 980,000 — a figure that is expected to rise as more newly uprooted people are being registered," the UNHCR said in a statement.
"In addition, some 600,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum or other forms of legal stay in neighbouring countries, particularly the Russian Federation, but also Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Romania, since February 2014," the statement said.
Journalists in Geneva learned from spokesman Adrian Edwards that UNHCR teams were "reporting that heavy fighting in the Donetsk region over the last two weeks has resulted in massive destruction of buildings and infrastructure and in the collapse of basic services."
"Local authorities have begun to evacuate people from conflict areas, but many are still trapped by the fighting, including in basements and buildings under constant bombardment. The evacuations are being organized by the government helped by local volunteers," Edwards said.
The statement said evacuees are being brought to Ukrainian government-controlled towns to the north of Donetsk such as Slavyansk, Svyatogorsk, Kramatorsk and Grodovka, as well as to the nearby Kharkiv Region.
"They are being transported in cars and buses and, in the case of the most vulnerable, by train. Some evacuees are temporarily accommodated in train carriages at the railway station in Slovyansk, awaiting onwards transportation," it said.
The UNHCR said that "apart from the organized evacuations, civilians continue to flee the conflict areas by their own means, facing numerous dangers along the way."
Edwards emphasized that "UNHCR maintains its call on all parties to the conflict to refrain from any actions that might endanger the life of civilians and to adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law."
A spokesman for the UNHCR Office said it will address the world community with a call on additional allocation of funds for humanitarian operations in connection with the crisis in Ukraine in 2015 to the tune of $41.5 million.