BRUSSELS — Humanitarian groups have warned of a major crisis for millions of people in Ukraine if Russia further invades, and the European Union says it is preparing for large numbers of displaced people if a full-on conflict breaks out.
The European commissioner for migration, Ylva Johansson, said during a visit to Poland on Tuesday that the European Union and experts working for her in Brussels were drawing up plans on how to respond to a possible large-scale arrival of Ukrainian refugees.
“The focus has been on the contingency planning for the very dangerous situation in Ukraine,” Ms. Johansson said in Warsaw. Although it was unclear what the next steps by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would be, she added, “We have to be prepared if there will be a massive inflow of refugees of Ukrainians into the European Union.”
The U.S. troops who arrived in Poland this month are preparing to assist with Ukrainian evacuees.
Jan Egeland, who leads the Norwegian Refugee Council humanitarian agency, said that communities in Ukraine were already suffering since Russia invaded the country’s east in a 2014 conflict.
“The freezing pensioners I met near the front line told me they are struggling to survive in their isolated, war-ravaged villages,” he said in a statement. “Tens of thousands have endured almost daily shelling and life with limited or no access to water, electricity and essential services for years.”
“They are terrified about the prospects of a return to full-scale war,” he added, “and feel forgotten amid the high-level political games playing around them.”
The United Nations has appealed to the international community to raise $190 million this year to help Ukrainians, although only 9 percent of that has been raised. A full invasion and large-scale conflict would only increase the financial need.
The International Rescue Committee, another large agency that works on refugee issues, said that Poland and other E.U. countries bordering Ukraine would be quickly affected by the arrival of displaced Ukrainians.
“If war breaks out, the consequences for the Ukrainian people — and for Europe — cannot be overstated,” said Lani Fortier, a senior official at the agency.