As tensions remain high with Russia’s invading troops and tanks driving deeper into Ukraine, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday that Ukrainians fleeing the invasion will be welcomed into the country if they have family in Britain.
“The U.K. will not turn our backs in Ukraine’s hour of need,” Johnson said in a statement, announcing that visa restrictions are being eased for Ukrainians who have immediate family in Britain, Reuters reported.
The prime minister also said at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Mayfair, London, Sunday night that the U.K. would be “very generous” toward Ukrainian refugees, The Telegraph reported.
Speaking to a group of Ukrainians at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Johnson promised a system that would allow people to enter the country due to fear of persecution, to reunite with family or “other purposes.”
Family members eligible to apply for these visas are a spouse or civil partner, an unmarried partner of at least two years, children younger than 18, a parent if their child is younger than 18, and adult relatives who are carers, according to the BBC.
Johnson also announced that the U.K. would send over $53 million (£40 million) in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including medical supplies to support those fleeing the invasion.
“We are providing all the economic and military support we can to help those Ukrainians risking everything to protect their country,” he was quoted as saying.
European Union ministers on Sunday night went ahead of the U.K., promising to accept Ukrainian refugees for up to three years, without asking them to apply for asylum, the BBC added.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian delegations met Monday on Ukraine’s border with Belarus, although it’s not known if the talks yielded any positive result, The Associated Press reported, adding that explosions and gunfire did appear to have subsided around Kyiv.
In Kyiv on Monday, residents were allowed to come out of bomb shelters and homes to buy groceries for the first time since a curfew was imposed Saturday, the newswire said.
Also in the Kyiv region, Russian forces burned down the Ivankiv Museum of Local History, which housed valuable artwork by the Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko, the Kyiv Independent reported Monday.
While the actual civilian death toll remains unclear, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 16 children were among the dead.
Ukraine’s health minister had announced Saturday that at least 198 civilians, including three children, had been killed by Russian soldiers.
While millions of residents in Ukraine have left their homes since the invasion began last Thursday, more than 500,000 people have fled the country, a U.N. official was quoted as saying Monday.
Experts have warned that a prolonged war could displace millions of Ukrainians, leading to a large-scale humanitarian crisis.
Also on Monday, Zelensky called on the EU to enable Ukraine to join the political and economic union, according to the media outlet. “We are asking the European Union to immediately accede Ukraine by special procedure,” he said in a video address.
Putin has ordered Russia's nuclear deterrent forces to be on high alert in response to financial sanctions imposed on Russian banks by European nations following the invasion.
In a meeting with his top officials on Sunday, Putin ordered his defense minister and the chief of the military's general staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a "special regime of combat duty" in response to what he claimed were "aggressive statements" by NATO members and financial sanctions that block some Russian banks from the Swift global payments system, according to The Telegraph.
This came as Ukrainian forces continued to fiercely resist invading Russian troops on the fourth day of fighting.
Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted Saturday that he had appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross “to facilitate repatriation of thousands of bodies of Russian soldiers” killed during its invasion of Ukraine, with an accompanying chart claiming 3,500 Russian troops had been killed, The AP reported.
The number has since grown to 5,300, according to Kyiv Independent. These numbers have not been verified, however.
As the war rages, U.S.-based Christian groups, including Slavic Gospel Association, Samaritan's Purse and World Help, are supporting churches in Ukraine to provide aid.
President Joe Biden on Friday night signed an order authorizing the U.S. to send up to $600 million to Ukraine — up to $350 million in military aid and $250 million for “overall assistance.”
Earlier on Friday, Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, used its veto power to block a resolution condemning its invasion. The vote at the U.N.’s headquarters in New York City was 11 in favor, one against, and three abstentions, including China and India.