Romania could take in 500,000 Ukrainian refugees if needed -defence minister

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Romanian Minister of Defence Vasile Dincu delivers a speech during a joint press statement with the French Minister of Defence Florence Parly (not pictured), in Bucharest, Romania, January 27, 2022. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. ROMANIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN ROMANIA

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BUCHAREST, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Romania is preparing to receive up to half a million potential refugees from Ukraine in case of a Russian invasion, Defence Minister Vasile Dincu said on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war. read more

The U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday it had not seen an increased movement of people fleeing Ukraine, but eastern European governments and towns near the Ukrainian border were making preparations to take people in, if needed. read more

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"There are several estimates, but we could receive over 500,000 refugees, that is...the number for which we have prepared alongside the interior ministry and other institutions," Dincu told reporters.

"There is a plan prepared for all large cities, there are areas for this near the borders."

Romania, a European Union and NATO member state, has a 600-kilometre (370-mile) border with Ukraine, but saw relatively few Ukrainian refugees in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.

"We are also not expecting a major influx coming here now, but one never knows," Dincu said.

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Lucian Bode said authorities were working on a plan which included temporary mobile camps in northeastern Romanian border counties.

The Romanian Coalition for Migrant and Refugee Rights said last week that clarity and transparecy were needed to prepare for a "potential deterioration of the situation in Ukraine and subsequent rise in numbers of migrants at Romania's northern border".

In late January, Poland said it was bracing for up to one million Ukrainian migrants. Hungary said it could take care of tens of thousands of possible refugees.

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Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Mark Heuinrich

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