'More than 20,000' Ukrainian expats flood across Polish border to fight Russia

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians living across Europe have returned home via Poland to fight the Russian invasion, Polish officials have said.

According to the UN, at least 200,000 refugees have fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighbouring countries.

But Poland’s Border Guard said on Sunday that some 22,000 people have crossed back over the border, with checkpoints so busy that snaking queues were forming outside.

One man with a group of 20 Ukrainian truck drivers walking to a checkpoint in the village of Medyka told the AP news agency: ‘We have to defend our homeland. Who else if not us?’

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Another said: ‘The Russians should be afraid. We are not afraid.’

Most of the expats returning home are believed to be fighting-age men seeking to enlist in the Ukrainian armed forces, though some were women who had left their families behind for stints abroad to earn higher wages.

Lesa, a woman in her 30s, spoke to the AP just before entering the checkpoint building, said: ‘I am afraid, but I am a mother and want to be with my children.

‘What can you do? It’s scary but I have to.’

Another young woman said she felt a duty to relieve her husband of childcare duties so he could fight.

The Polish border has seen the majority of civilian traffic in and out of Ukraine, as Belarus to the north has been used as a staging ground for the Russian invasion.

Parts of Moldova to the south are controlled by separatists who have allowed Russia to station troops there.

Some 43,000 refugees have fled into Romania, another EU state seen as a safe haven.

Ukraine has also announced the formation of an ‘international legion’ allowing foreign volunteers to take up arms against Russia.

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