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On the Hungarian border, the first Ukrainians flee the fighting

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(Záhony) “All those who can flee abroad”: Krisztian Szavla is one of the first Ukrainians to have crossed the Hungarian border, on foot or by car, for fear of bombardments and fighting after the invasion of their country by Russia.

Met by AFP in a gas station in Zahony, this 28-year-old marketing specialist is from the region of Transcarpathia (west), which has 130,000 Magyars.

Some hastily packed luggage, the stroller loaded in the trunk of his car, he took to the road with his wife and his little daughter as soon as he learned that Vladimir Putin’s army had launched a massive attack on Ukraine.

“We don’t want to experience what our friends and compatriots are going through in the east of the country, waking up to the sound of sirens, with each Russian bombardment,” confides Krisztian Szavla, full beard and black cap screwed on his head.

“I refuse that my child grow up without a father,” he adds, explaining that he did not want to be enrolled in the army.

In the immediate future, he plans to stay with friends. Waiting to see how the situation evolves.

Distributors and stores attacked

On this first day of open war, Hungarian police reported long queues of vehicles waiting to enter the country at five crossing points along the 140 km border with Ukraine.

“Motorists are filling up with gas, cash dispensers are empty, and stores are storming,” says Szavla.

“At least 400 or 500 people” also crossed on foot, according to the MTI news agency.

A Ukrainian doctor rolls his suitcase the other way. Bogdan Khmenitsky, 33, had come to Budapest to take part in a congress. But he decided to return home upon waking up to the news.

“The situation in Ukraine is terrible, my relatives are leaving Kiev and other cities,” he says.

“We shortened our stay to lend a hand in Ukraine,” he continues, determined to hitchhike with his two colleagues to reach the capital.

If the crowd was not massive Thursday in Hungary, the sovereignist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for his hard position on asylum, said to expect a wave of refugees.

The figure of 600,000 is mentioned, according to a map deployed during a meeting the day before and visible on his Facebook page.


PHOTO ATTILA KISBENEDEK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

If the crowd was not massive Thursday in Hungary, the sovereignist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for his hard position on asylum, said to expect a wave of refugees.

“We are ready to welcome them, to quickly and effectively meet this challenge,” the leader said in a video message.

The government has announced the deployment of troops, for security and humanitarian aid purposes.

Romania “not prepared”

Neighboring Romania is also anticipating a large influx, a “collateral effect” of the invasion of Ukraine, in the words of Defense Minister Vasile Dancu.

Thursday, the Border Police noted an increase in the number of arrivals, identifying some 5,300 people, against 2,400 the day before.

Several hundred, including women accompanied by children, crossed the border post of Sighetul Marmatiei (north), according to images broadcast by television.

“Most of them are inquiring about how to get to Poland or the Czech Republic,” said the city’s mayor, Vasile Moldovan.

Because Romania, one of the poorest countries in the European Union, “is absolutely not prepared”, estimates Flavius ​​Ilioni-Loga, head of an NGO helping refugees.

“How are the authorities going to set up everything related to humanitarian assistance? Who will provide them with the necessary food and medicine? “, he worries. “And this without even talking about long-term integration, which implies access to a job, social housing or a school for the children”.

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