Russia declared a partial ceasefire on Saturday to allow humanitarian corridors out of Ukrainian cities that have suffered heavy casualties during the deadly invasion that has now entered its 10th day.
Russian state media announced the defence ministry approved the ceasefire to allow civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha. The ceasefire take effect at 9 a.m. Kyiv time, the ministry was quoted as saying.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, confirmed the two cities were preparing for evacuations shortly after the ministry’s announcement.
Mariupol officials said the ceasefire would last for seven hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, with the evacuations beginning at 11 a.m.
A post on the city government’s Telegram page said private transports will be allowed to continue evacuating residents in “several stages of evacuation over several days” following Saturday’s ceasefire.
“In conditions when our hometown is constantly under ruthless fire from the occupiers, there is no other solution than to enable residents, that is, you and me, to leave Mariupol safely,” Mayor Vadim Boychenko said in the statement.
Ukraine’s defence ministry on Friday evening quoted a statement from Podoliak who said a “working group” had been set up with representatives of Ukraine and Russia to evacuate people from affected areas.
The International Red Cross was acting as a mediator between the two sides, according to Podoliak.
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Mariupol, a strategic port city in southeastern Ukraine, and the eastern town of Volnovakha have both been surrounded by Russian troops and have suffered heavy shelling, killing dozens of citizens, Ukrainian officials say.
The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the elderly to escape the fighting, calling such corridors “question No. 1.”
The corridors were discussed during the second round of ceasefire talks held on Thursday between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian side had made the issue a key demand heading into the negotiations.
In addition to civilian evacuations, the corridors will also allow food and medicine to be delivered to the wounded, as well as military troops, medical workers and government officials who remain behind.
Russian media, quoting the defence ministry, said its forces are continuing a “broad offensive” across Ukraine despite the partial ceasefires.
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