Russia on Saturday declared a partial ceasefire to allow humanitarian corridors from the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, Russia’s defense ministry said.
“From 10 a.m. Moscow time (7 a.m. GMT), the Russian side is declaring a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha,” Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying.
Russian forces have blocked the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the mayor announced on Saturday, as Moscow and Kiev planned to hold new talks this weekend. While Russian forces besieged Mariupol for days, they also cut off electricity, food, water, heating and transportation in the depths of winter.
“For the time being, we are looking for solutions to humanitarian problems and for every possible way to get Mariupol out of the blockade,” Mayor Vadim Boychenko said.
He called for a ceasefire and a humanitarian corridor for food and medicine.
Since President Vladimir Putin’s army sent troops on February 24, Russia has crushed Ukrainian cities and attacked Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. Moscow has captured two key cities during its 10-day military operation, Berdiansk and Kherson on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast.
But capturing Mariupol, a city of about 450,000 on the Sea of Azov, would be a greater cost to Russian forces, as it would deal a heavy blow to Ukraine’s maritime access and troops from annexed Crimea and the Donbas. would connect.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Friday that Moscow is waiting for a third round of talks with Ukraine in Belarus, and one of Kiev’s negotiators said it hopes to hold it this weekend.
“The third leg could take place tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we are in constant contact,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Friday.
As Russia bombed cities across the country, the Ukrainian military said on Facebook that Moscow’s main focus was to surround Kiev.
In a hospital in the Ukrainian capital, wounded soldiers told AFP about their grim struggle against the Russian advance and vowed to return to the front line.
“We were reconnaissance and encountered an enemy column that had made a breakthrough,” said Motyka, 29, who was hit on his right by shrapnel. “We fought them and killed their soldiers on foot, but they shelled us with mortar fire.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is said to appeal to Washington for more help on Saturday. He will address the US Senate as some lawmakers urge President Joe Biden to take tougher measures, including a ban on oil imports from Russia.
No no-fly zone
Zelensky had previously criticized NATO for excluding a no-fly zone, saying the Western military alliance had essentially “given the green light for further bombing of Ukrainian cities and towns”.
In the northern city of Chernihiv, 47 people were killed on Thursday when Russian troops bombed residential areas, including schools and a high-rise apartment building, according to local officials.
Putin told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko on Friday that “the tasks set for the (Ukraine) operations are proceeding according to plan and will be fully fulfilled”.
With fears of a nuclear conflict mounting, the US and Russian armed forces have set up a new direct telephone line to reduce the risks of “miscalculation,” the Pentagon said Friday. Russian forces seized the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant on Friday, urging Kiev to accuse Moscow of “nuclear terror”.
Ukrainian observers say there has been no spike in radiation after a fire at a training facility. Moscow denied shelling the factory.
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and discuss a possible draft resolution, diplomats told AFP on Friday. The UN says more than 1.2 million refugees have poured into neighboring countries.
The global agency’s food agency has warned that the conflict will spark a food crisis in Ukraine and exacerbate global food insecurity, with Moscow and Kiev accounting for about 29 percent of the global wheat trade.