Geneva: Fighting in eastern Ukraine this year has made over half-a-million people flee their homes, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday.
These internally displaced people have been forced to seek shelter in other parts of Ukraine, while hundreds of thousands have fled to Russia and other neighbouring states, the UN Refugee Agency added.
Citing figures from Ukrainian authorities, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said that some 514,000 people had been internally displaced by the conflict in Ukraine as of the beginning of December, according to a report in the UNHCR website.
Spindler added that most of the internally displaced people in the eastern European country remain in regions close to the conflict, and most were women, children, older people and those living with disabilities.
Ukrainians have also been seeking international protection, with some 233,000 applying for refugee status or temporary asylum in the Russian Federation, according to Russia's Federal Migration Service, the report added.
"Applications for asylum by Ukrainian citizens have also risen in the European Union (EU) this year," Spindler said.
As of the end of October, 8,936 Ukrainians had asked for international protection in the EU, a tenfold increase from the 885 asylum applications during the whole of 2013.
"The number of Ukrainians fleeing abroad could be considerably higher than the number of asylum seekers, however, as many Ukrainians prefer to apply for other forms of legal stay such as temporary or permanent residence permits in other countries," Spindler noted.