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In November 2021, Russia began building up military forces along its border with Ukraine. Over 100,000 Russian troops and military assets were deployed in western Russia and Crimea. Further troops were deployed to Belarus for military exercises close to the Ukrainian border.

On 24 February 2022, Russian troops entered Ukraine and attacks have been reported across the country, including against its capital, Kyiv.

The briefing describes the number of refugees leaving Ukraine, the conflict’s humanitarian effects in Ukraine, and what aid the UK and others have pledged in 2022. This is in addition to the humanitarian crisis which has been ongoing in eastern Ukraine since 2014. In that year, Russia annexed the Crimea and two regions in the Donbas, controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, declared independence.

Humanitarian situation

The ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine since 2014 has seen the country’s humanitarian needs grow. To January 2021, over 3,000 civilians were killed (PDF) and the UN estimated around 2.9 million people were in need of humanitarian aid (eg, to access food, shelter or health services) (at February 2022). This is now expected to rise to 12 million in early 2022—over a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million population.

Many people have been displaced

Around 12.8 million people are now either displaced within Ukraine or have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries. Poland hosts the highest number of refugees, at 2.9 million.

Around 1,000 UK troops are on standby for humanitarian support in the countries immediately adjoining Ukraine, and will be “deployed as and when those countries ask for them.”

UK and others have pledged aid

On 1 March 2022 the UN launched an appeal for US$1.7 billion (around £1.3 billion at April 2022 exchange rates) to fund its humanitarian work in Ukraine and the needs of people seeking refuge.

From 2010 to 2020, the UK provided a total of around £173 million in bilateral aid (that is, aid given for a specific programme or purpose) to Ukraine.

In February and March 2022, the UK pledged around £394 million to Ukraine, though not all will be spent in 2022. The package is formed of three main parts:

The UK says it is also willing to guarantee up to US$500 million in loans to support Ukraine’s economy (around £379 million).

The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, has criticised the pace at which the spending has been delivered. To 1 April, £60 million of the £220 million committed for humanitarian purposes had been spent.

The World Bank, United States, and European Union have also pledged aid to Ukraine to address urgent humanitarian needs and support its economy.

Further reading

For updates on the military situation in Ukraine, sanctions, and other geopolitical aspects to these events, visit the Commons Library’s Ukraine crisis page.

Update log

17 March 2022: Added details on World Bank, IMF, US and UN commitments. 

22 April 2022: Added details on UK aid committments, refugee and displacement numbers


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