Ukraine’s Mariupol Evacuation on Hold Amid Claims Russia Has Violated Ceasefire

Ukraine’s Mariupol Evacuation on Hold Amid Claims Russia Has Violated Ceasefire
Refugees from Ukraine gather at the distribution center in Korczowa, Poland, on March 5, 2022. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images)

Officials in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol have paused an evacuation of their residents, accusing Russian forces of violating a ceasefire deal and resuming shelling, while Russia’s defense ministry claimed its troops had come under fire after setting up humanitarian corridors.

The Mariupol City Council said in a March 5 statement on Telegram that the evacuation has been postponed and asked residents to seek refuge in bomb shelters.

“Due to the fact that the Russian side has not adhered to the ceasefire agreement and continues shelling Mariupol and its surroundings, for security reasons the evacuation of the population is postponed,” the council said, adding that negotiations with Russian officials continue to establish a ceasefire and a humanitarian corridor.

Earlier, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a temporary ceasefire in the southeastern port of Mariupol and the eastern town of Volnovakha, according to official statements from both sides.

Ukranians fled
With men staying behind to fight, women and children that fled fighting in Bucha and Irpin board an evacuation train from Irpin City to Kyiv that was scheduled after heavy fighting overnight forced many to leave their homes, in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Formally, the temporary ceasefire started at 10:00 a.m. Moscow time and humanitarian corridors were opened for the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, as cited by Russian state media Tass.

Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podoliak, who took part in negotiations with Russian officials this week, said on Twitter that, in the two cities in question, “evacuation humanitarian corridors are being prepared for opening, and columns of those to be evacuated are being formed.”

“The parties temporarily ceased fire in the area of ​​corridors,” he added.

But the evacuations along the two corridors are now in limbo. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that Russian forces violated the ceasefire deal, accusing them of shelling Volnovakha with heavy weaponry and engaging in combat operations near Mariupol that make it impossible for the column of evacuees to proceed.

“We appeal to the Russian side to stop the shelling, restore the ceasefire and give an opportunity to form humanitarian corridor columns so that the women’s children and the elderly can leave the settlements,” Vereschuk said, according to Ukrainian news agency Interfax.

destroyed Russian military vehicle
People walk past a destroyed Russian military vehicle at a frontline position in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Ukrainian authorities earlier said they planned to evacuate around 15,000 women, children, and the elderly from Volnovakha and some 200,000 from Mariupol.

Russian authorities, meanwhile, have accused the Ukrainian side of preventing civilians from leaving Mariupol and Volnovakha, while claiming Russian forces had come under fire, according to the RIA news agency.

The Epoch Times has been unable to independently verify either side’s accounts.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the Ukrainian side is doing everything necessary to make sure the humanitarian corridors work as intended.

“Humanitarian corridors must work today. Mariupol and Volnovakha. To save people, women and children, especially older people, to give food and medicine to those who remain. Our help is on the way,” Zelensky said in a video message posted on Telegram.

At the same time, Zelensky urged everyone able to remain and defend their cities to stay and fight.

“Because if everyone leaves, then whose city will this city be? We are doing everything on our part to make the agreement work, this is one of the main tasks for today, let’s see if it is possible to go further in the negotiation process,” he said.

Kyril Kolcheryn, 21, rides his bicycle in the town of Stoyanka, west of Kyiev, on March 4, 2022. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

Former NATO General Egon Ramms told German media outlet ARD that, while he hopes the ceasefire will hold, a prerequisite is for both sides to cease hostilities.

Ramms said that experience with ceasefires shows “that often both sides are not equally informed” and so one side unwittingly continues to fight.

“Then the other side fires back. And then such a humanitarian corridor has failed accordingly, both for aid and for people who want to flee,” he told the outlet.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to a massive humanitarian crisis, with 1.3 million people having fled the hostilities as of March 5, according to the U.N.

“Unless there is an immediate end to the conflict, millions more are likely to be forced to flee,” the U.N. Refugee Agency said in a statement.

From The Epoch Times

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