Moscow announced a pause in fighting from 8 a.m. (Dutch time) on Monday morning to allow residents of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sumy and the port city of Mariupol to reach safety via “humanitarian corridors”. The proposals that Ukraine received from Russia showed that most of the escape routes led to areas controlled by Russia, Belarus, or pro-Russian separatists.
Moscow indicated that the corridors that were set up were the result of talks between the Kremlin and Macron. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk said he hoped French President Emmanuel Macron “understands that his name and sincere will to help are being misused and manipulated by Russia”.
President Macron reacted angrily to Putin, with whom he spent nearly two hours on Sunday discussing options to spare the civilian population. This is not dangerous at all. “It is a moral and political absurdity that I find intolerable,” he told French television. “I don’t know a lot of Ukrainians who want to go to Russia.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke of a “trap”. It is feared that the Russian offer is a prelude to new Russian bombings. Le Drian pointed out that Moscow also used this tactic in the wars in Syria and Chechnya.
After heavy bombardment in Aleppo, Chechnya and Grozny, Russian proposals to establish humanitarian corridors followed. However, this did not lead to anything as negotiations on the matter failed. “We must not fall into the trap,” said Le Drian.
Vereshchuk called on residents of the attacked cities to also move to Ukraine-controlled areas. And Kyiv proposed eight corridors to the west of the country, which had not yet been attacked by the Russians. According to Vereshuk, the lanes are still not open despite Russian promises.
Six humanitarian corridors for fleeing populations
On Monday morning, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that there are six humanitarian corridors through which the population can escape. From the capital Kyiv, whose suburbs are under heavy fire, there is only a lane that leads to Gomel in Belarus. Most city-dwellers will not want to go this route, with the exception of some of Kyiv’s ethnic Russians.
The same applies to the city of Kharkiv, which has been under heavy fire from the Russian army for days. From that city there is only a “humanitarian corridor” to Belgorod in western Russia. Residents of Sumy, not far from the Russian border, are also allowed to move to Belgorod. This time there is also an escape route to Poltava, which is still in the hands of the Ukrainians. It is already passing through an area already partially controlled by the Russians.
Surrounded by Russians and pro-Russian separatists, Mariupol residents have the option of fleeing via a corridor to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Part of the Russian population will choose this. The rest have to leave the city via a road that leads to Zaporizhzhya, again through the lands controlled by the Russians.
The situation in Mariupol is desperate due to the lack of water and electricity
The situation is desperate, especially for the residents of Mariupol. The water supply was cut off for days, as was the electricity, while the Russians and separatists bombard the city constantly. Two previous attempts to allow the residents to flee failed as the bombing resumed almost immediately.
Moscow appears to have deliberately chosen the escape routes to Russia and Belarus, in the hope that some Russians would leave the besieged cities as a result. In all four cities, they make up a large part of the population. Of course, if many of them are killed, it will negate President Putin’s claim that Russia invaded Ukraine to save them.
According to the latest UN figures, just over 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled abroad since the Russian invasion began 12 days ago. On Sunday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said there are more than 1.5 million. The vast majority, just over a million, fled to Poland. There are 128 thousand refugees in Slovakia and 180 thousand in Hungary.
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