LVIV, Ukraine — Safe corridors intended to let Ukrainian civilians escape the Russian onslaught could open Tuesday, Kremlin officials said, though Ukrainian leaders were skeptical since prior efforts to establish evacuation routes crumbled amid renewed attacks.
The invasion was well into its second week. Russian troops made significant progress in south Ukraine, but were unable to advance in other areas. With hundreds of checkpoints built and barricades to prevent a takeover, soldiers and volunteers defended Kyiv capital. Other population centres were hit with a steady stream of rockets and shells, even Bucha in Kyiv, which was under heavy fire from the mayor.
“We can’t even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn’t stop day or night,” Mayor Anatol Fedoruk said. “Dogs are pulling apart the bodies on the city streets. It’s a nightmare.”
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In one of the most desperate cities, the encircled southern port of Mariupol, an estimated 200,000 people — nearly half the population of 430,000 — were hoping to flee, and Red Cross officials waited to hear when a corridor would be established.
Russia’s coordination center for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine said Russia will begin a cease-fire at 10 a.m. Moscow time (0700 GMT) to allow civilians to flee through special corridors agreed upon with Ukrainian authorities, according to Russian media. According to the center, most corridors lead directly to Russia or via Belarus. However, people from Kharkiv will be permitted to travel to Western Ukraine.
There were many doubts, fuelled by previous failures in trying to bring civilians safety during the worst European ground war since World War II. The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would not comment on the latest Russian proposal, saying only that Moscow’s plans can be believed only if a safe evacuation begins.
In the face of increasing Russian military shelling, there has been an increase in demand for efficient passageways. The steady bombardments, including in some of Ukraine’s most populated regions, have yielded a humanitarian crisis of diminishing food, water and medical supplies.
Zelenskky claimed that Ukrainian forces showed unimaginable courage through it all.
“The problem is that for one soldier of Ukraine, we have 10 Russian soldiers, and for one Ukrainian tank, we have 50 Russian tanks,” Zelenskyy told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday night. But he noted that the gap in strength was closing and that even if Russian forces “come into all our cities,” they will be met with an insurgency.
According to a top U.S. official, multiple nations were discussing the possibility of providing Zelenskyy’s requested warplanes.
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Mariupol is currently without power, water and food. Cellphone networks have been down since then. As residents look for basic goods, stores have been looted. As police moved throughout the city, they advised people to shelter until they received official instructions to evacuate.
Mariupol hospitals have experienced severe shortages in painkillers. Some doctors were unable to perform emergency procedures because they did not stock the necessary medications.
Anxious citizens approached strangers in the hope of finding out if there were relatives who lived elsewhere and if it was safe.
Several hundred kilometers (miles) west of Mariupol, Russian forces continued their offensive in Mykolaiv, opening fire on the Black Sea shipbuilding center of a half-million people, according to Ukraine’s military. Firefighters responded to rocket attack fires in residential areas.
Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces said in a statement Tuesday that Ukrainian forces are continuing defense operations in the suburbs of the city.
The general staff said “demoralized” Russian forces are engaging in looting in places they have occupied, commandeering civilian buildings like farm hangars for military equipment, and are setting up firing positions in populated areas. They could not independently verify the claims.
According to the General Staff, Ukrainian defense forces also participated in operations in Chernihiv’s northern region and the outskirts Kyiv.
Volunteers and soldiers have constructed hundreds of checkpoints in Kyiv to defend the city, which has nearly 4,000,000 inhabitants. They often use spiked cables, sandbags and stacked tires. Some barsicades looked impressive, with concrete slabs and heavy sandbags up to two stories tall. Others appeared less so, with stacks full of books that were used as weights for tires.
“Every house, every street, every checkpoint, we will fight to the death if necessary,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with 1.4 million people, heavy shelling slammed into apartment buildings.
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“I think it struck the fourth floor under us,” Dmitry Sedorenko said from his Kharkiv hospital bed. “Immediately, everything started burning and falling apart.” When the floor collapsed beneath him, he crawled out through the third story, past the bodies of some of his neighbors.
Horenka was a small village where shelling had reduced an area to ashes. Residents and rescuers worked together to pick through the wreckage as chickens munched around it.
“What are they doing?” rescue worker Vasyl Oksak asked of the Russian attackers. “There were two little kids and two elderly people living here. Come in and see what they have done.”
At The Hague, Ukraine pleaded with the International Court of Justice to order a halt to Russia’s invasion, saying Moscow is committing widespread war crimes.
Russia “is resorting to tactics reminiscent of medieval siege warfare, encircling cities, cutting off escape routes and pounding the civilian population with heavy ordnance,” said Jonathan Gimblett, a member of Ukraine’s legal team.
Russia turned down the court proceedings leaving empty seats at the Great Hall of Justice.
Due to Russian bombardment, attempts to provide safe passage for civilians fell apart over the weekend.
Russia’s plan announced Monday allowing civilians to leave Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy would have used routes toward Russia or its ally Belarus, which was a launch pad for the invasion. Instead, Ukraine proposed eight routes that would allow civilians to travel westward to areas of the country without shelling.
Later, Russia’s U.N. Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador, stated to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday morning that Russia would implement a cease-fire. She also suggested that humanitarian corridors from Kyiv/Mariupol/Sumy/Chernigov might allow individuals to pick where safety is sought.
The U.N. humanitarian chief, Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths, addressed the Security Council and urged safe passage for people to go “in the direction they choose.”
Because Moscow could establish a land route to Crimea from Mariupol, Russia took it from Ukraine in 2014. This is why the battle for Mariupol was so important.
This fighting has seen energy prices rise worldwide and stock markets plummet, and it threatens people across the globe whose livelihoods depend on crops grown in the fertile Black Sea area.
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Although the U.N. human right office claimed that there were 406 civilian casualties, it is likely that this number is higher. The invasion also saw 1.7 million Ukrainians flee the country.
Moscow reiterated Monday its demands for an end to the invasion. This included the recognition of Crimea by Russia, and the independent status of the areas in the east controlled separatist fighters supported by Moscow. It also insisted that Ukraine change its constitution to guarantee it won’t join international bodies like NATO and the EU. These demands were rejected by Ukraine already.
Zelenskyy has demanded more sanctions against Russia. He called for a boycott global of Russia’s oil exports. These are essential to Russia’s economy.
“If (Russia) doesn’t want to abide by civilized rules, then they shouldn’t receive goods and services from civilization,” he said in a video address.