Russian forces in Ukraine should respect international humanitarian law, protect civilians and refrain from damaging and destroying civilian infrastructure, said Janez Lenarčič, European commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
“Access has been in many places, sporadic at best or non-existent,” and Russia is “not providing for unimpeded access for humanitarian supplies and humanitarian workers to people in need,” Lenarčič said in a statement to journalists on Thursday.
Aid agencies delivering aid from the EU face “difficulties reaching some of the besieged cities,” he said, adding that they have “difficulties reaching the population, which is trapped in the zones of active conflict.”
He blamed the Russian forces for this, saying they “are not living up to their international legal obligation.”
Speaking at the European Union’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) in Brussels, where the EU coordinates the collation and delivery of humanitarian aid from across all 27 EU countries, the commissioner said, providing aid to Ukraine was “the largest ever civil protection operation” since EU’s disaster response mechanism was established in 2001.
“This aggression has caused a humanitarian disaster of proportions that we have not seen since World War II. The needs of people in Ukraine are enormous,” he said.
The ERCC, which operates 24 hours a day, is currently coordinating “food, medicines, medical equipment, ambulances, mobile hospitals, firefighting equipment, firefighting trucks, fuel” for delivery to Ukraine, he added.
The commissioner said that he expects the number of refugees to keep growing if the invasion continues.
“We now have one million refugees per week. So if this goes on 10 more weeks, yes, we could reach the figure of 15 million people,” he said.