NICOLA Sturgeon has condemned the UK Government’s “shameful” refusal to waive visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees as Ireland welcomes thousands of people feeling the Russian invasion.

Boris Johnson’s administration came under fire earlier this week when it was revealed that only 50 visa applications had been accepted. That figure had risen to 760 by Wednesday morning, though there were still reports of chaos and confusion at Home Office application centres in France and Poland.

Ireland, meanwhile, has already welcomed more than 2000 Ukrainians who are permitted under EU measures to enter visa-free, and to stay for up to three years. Irish ministers say they could eventually accept up to 100,000 refugees.

That prompted a UK Government official to tell the Telegraph that Ireland's more generous plans could endanger Britain, prompting accusations Downing Street was "berating" countries that accept more Ukrainian refugees.

Sturgeon, responding to reports of Ukrainians being welcomed at Dublin Airport, commented: “This is what UK should be doing … shameful that it’s not.”

The Frist Minister also raised the issue as she visited Edinburgh’s Ukrainian Club.

"Everybody is horrified by what is happening to Ukraine right now and we want to do everything we can to assist," she said.

“In addition, of course, to the international pressure on Putin through sanctions we need to make sure we are opening our doors to those fleeing the horror in Ukraine."

"On that front, I’ve been pretty blunt in my view that the UK Government is not doing nearly enough.

"I’ve heard stories today from members of our own Ukrainian community seeking to get family members here and being met with a wall of bureaucracy that should not be happening.”

READ MORE: Lies, delays and red tape: How chaotic UK is blocking Ukrainian refugees

The First Minister added: “I would repeat my appeal to the Prime Minister directly to the to open not just the hearts of the UK to those needing sanctuary, but to open the doors of the UK to allow people to come to the UK and then deal with the paperwork afterwards.”

"That’s what Ireland is doing, that’s what countries across the European Union is doing and it’s what the UK urgently needs to do now.”

On Wednesday, Tory Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the UK’s record on providing an escape route for Ukrainians and insisted that the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky did not want his countrymen travelling too far from their homeland.

He told Sky News that 760 visas had been granted, with 22,000 applications “on their way through”.

Shapps said: “No country has given more humanitarian aid to Ukraine than the UK, in the world. We have given £400 million, in addition the British people have been incredibly generous as well.

“Geographically we are, of course, spaced further to the West and President Zelensky and the Ukrainian government have told me that they do not want people to move far away, if at all possible, from the country because they want people to be able to come back.

“We are really leaning into this, at the same time respecting Ukraine’s wishes, the government’s wishes, not to pull people a long way away from Ukraine.”

Asked if he was embarrassed about the visa situation, Shapps replied: “We want everything to work smoothly, absolutely, of course. I’m sure there’s always lessons to be learned in these things. But you are dealing with a war situation – funnily enough Putin didn’t put much consideration into what would happen to refugees out of this war.”

Tory ministers came under fire on Tuesday after it emerged that families in Calais, France, were being turned away by UK Border Force agents due to a lack of paperwork and have been told they must travel more than 100 miles to Paris or Brussels to get a visa.

There was further confusion after Priti Patel told MPs that a visa centre “en route” to Calais had been set up. The Home Secretary later clarified these comments and said a centre would be set up in Lille – nearly 72 miles from Calais.

Shapps claimed the decision not to have a visa application centre in Calais was to avoid Ukrainians becoming targets for criminal people-smuggling gangs operating around the Channel port.

The Transport Secretary sidestepped questions on whether Patel had misled Parliament by claiming a processing centre “en route” to Calais would be set up and that staff were “on the ground” there.

He said: “I do know that in Lille there is a centre being set up. I do also know that because of the nature of the situation in Calais – the long-term issues there of criminal gangs bringing people across – we are very keen to separate these two issues.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary called for the Government to issue emergency visas – but stopped short of demanding visa waivers. 

Yvette Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Offer emergency visas that can be issued really swiftly, rather than people having to fill in these 14-page forms or rather than having to upload documents.

“It just beggars belief that people are being asked to do this when they have fled a war zone, when they have had to leave everything behind, when they have been risking life and limb, in the face of Russian bombardment.

“People shouldn’t be treated like this.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said its latest intelligence suggested Ukrainian cities were continuing to suffer heavy shelling but Vladimir Putin’s assault on capital Kyiv had failed to make major progress.

“Fighting north-west of Kyiv remains ongoing with Russian forces failing to make any significant breakthroughs,” the MoD said.

“The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled by Russian forces and continue to suffer heavy Russian shelling.

“Ukrainian air defences appear to have enjoyed considerable success against Russia’s modern combat aircraft, probably preventing them achieving any degree of control of the air.”