VILNIUS – Several dozen more Ukrainian war refugees are relocating to Lithuania from Moldova, Lithuania's Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
More than half a million war refugees fled to Moldova following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Lithuania then offered to share the burden with Moldova, promising to accommodate up to 2,000 Ukrainian nationals.
So far, 224 Ukrainians from Moldova have been relocated to the country.
"The war in Ukraine has brought great challenges for everyone. After Putin's Russia started the massacre in Ukraine, all the countries closest to Ukraine had to cope with a huge influx of war refugees. It's the responsibility of all of us to provide temporary homes and protection for those fleeing the horrors of war," Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite was quoted as saying a statement released by the ministry.
"Today, the eyes of the people moving from Moldova to Lithuania are filled with conflicting feelings of gratitude, sadness and hope, but I am convinced that by helping them, we are giving them more and more hope," she added.
Over 61,000 Ukrainian war refugees are currently registered in Lithuania.
LITHUANIA IS THE 1ST
Speaking with BNS later in the day, Bilotaite said Lithuania has no plans yet to increase the number of Ukrainians to be taken in.
"First of all, we are trying to take the number that we have at the moment," the minister said.
It's hard to predict when all the Ukrainians to be relocated will end up in Lithuania as they have to express their wish to do so, Bilotaite said, adding that the number of Ukrainian refugees at the Moldovan border is no longer the same as it was when the war broke out.
"I see that those inflows of people have stopped. (...) The situation is fairly stable and calm now", she said.
Bilotaite also pointed out that "Lithuania was the first country to offer assistance to Moldova". "A number of other countries followed our suit", she said.
While in Moldova, Bilotaite met with her Moldova counterpart Ana Revenco today. The two ministers visited a war refugee registration center in Chisinau.
The ministers saw off the Ukrainian refugees moving to Lithuania. They also discussed challenges faced by both countries in organizing the reception, registration and accommodation of Ukrainians in Lithuania.
Moldova was granted EU candidate status in June.
To help Moldova on its path to European integration, Bilotaite and her Moldovan counterpart on Thursday signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the fight against crime and a memorandum on cooperation in the area of home affairs.
Bilotaite says Lithuania has consistently provided assistance to Moldova in the area of home affairs.
"We have now agreed that we will be the mentors who will help to move faster with reforms and to achieve the goal of EU membership. We understand that our future and security issues will depend on it," Bilotaite said.