LVIV, UKRAINE – Even as Russia announced a ceasefire starting Monday morning and opened humanitarian corridors in some areas, its armed forces continued to attack Ukrainian cities, with multiple rocket launches at residential buildings.
The announcement of a limited ceasefire comes a day after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians trying to flee to safety were forced to take shelter from Russian shelling of cities in the center, north and south. south of Ukraine. Officials from both sides scheduled a third round of talks on Monday.
Russian forces continued their offensive, opening fire on the city of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers south of the capital Kyiv, Ukraine’s General Staff said Monday morning. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas hit by rockets.
Shelling also continued on the outskirts of Kyiv, including Irpin, where electricity, water and heating systems were cut off for three days.
Russia continues to carry out missile, bomb and artillery attacks on Ukrainian cities and settlements. “Aggressors continue to use Belarus’ airport network to carry out airstrikes on Ukraine.”
The Russians also targeted humanitarian corridors, taking women and children hostage and placing weapons in residential areas of cities, according to the General Staff.
A Russian task force said the ceasefire would begin on Monday morning, the 12th day of the war, for civilians from Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and Sumy. It remains unclear whether fighting will stop beyond the areas mentioned in the task force’s statement or when the ceasefire will end.
The announcement came after two failed attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, during which the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated 200,000 were trying to flee. Russia and Ukraine were blamed for this failure. The Russian special forces said the ceasefire on Monday and the opening of the corridors had been announced at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
Evacuation routes, published by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, citing the Defense Ministry, indicate that civilians will be able to leave for Russia and Belarus. Russian forces will observe the ceasefire using drones, the task force said.
The previous evacuation incident came as Ukrainian officials said that Russian shelling had intensified across the country.
“Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only create bloody corridors,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday. “Today a family was killed in Irpin. Man, woman and two children. Right on the road. Like in a shooting gallery”.
Putin said that Moscow’s attacks could be stopped “only if Kyiv stops its hostilities”. As usual, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kyiv needed to stop all hostilities and fulfill “famous Russian demands”.
Putin kicked off his invasion with a series of false accusations against Kyiv, including that the country was led by neo-Nazi intentions to undermine Russia by developing nuclear weapons.
As the Russian attacks worsened, shortly after the fighting in Mariupol collapsed. Local officials said heavy artillery hit residential areas in other major cities.
“There can be no ‘green corridor’ because only the ailing brains of the Russians decide when and who to shoot,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry of Ukraine.
On what is known as Forgiveness Sunday in Orthodox Christianity, Zelensky said Ukraine will never tolerate shelling of homes, unarmed killings and destruction of their infrastructure .
“And God will not forgive, today or tomorrow – never. And instead of a day of forgiveness, there will be a day of judgment. I am sure of this,” he said in a video address.
The death toll is still unclear. The United Nations said it had confirmed just a few hundred civilian deaths but warned that the number was too low.
Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich described a “catastrophic” situation in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where Sunday’s efforts to evacuate residents had failed. According to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin, about eight civilians, including a family, were killed by Russian shelling in Irpin.
The video shows a shell falling on the street, not far from the bridge used by residents to flee the fighting. A group of warriors can be seen trying to help the family. Arestovich said the government did all it could to continue the evacuation.
The British Ministry of Defense talks about Russian tactics as the fighting enters its 12th day on Monday. The fighting has forced 1.5 million people to flee the country, in what the head of the United Nations refugee agency called “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two”. “.
British military officials have compared Russian tactics to those used by Moscow in Chechnya and Syria, where besieged cities have been crushed by air strikes and artillery.
Food, water, medicine and most other supplies are in desperate shortages in Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces have agreed to an 11-hour ceasefire that allows civilians and those affected to injured are evacuated. But the Russian attacks quickly closed the humanitarian corridor, Ukrainian officials said.
The few residents who tried to flee the city before the humanitarian corridor closed said the city of 430,000 people had been devastated.
Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists, said: “We saw everything: houses on fire, all the people sitting in them. Basement. “No communication, no water, no gas, no light, no water. Nothing.”
Russia has made significant strides in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Sea of Azov. Capturing Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move most other countries consider illegal.
But much of Russia’s advance has stalled, including a massive convoy of military convoys that remained virtually motionless for days north of Kyiv.
A senior US defense official said on Sunday that the US estimates that about 95% of the Russian forces deployed around Ukraine are now inside the country. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russian forces continue to advance in an attempt to isolate Kyiv, Kharkhiv and Chernihiv, but are facing stiff resistance from Ukraine.
Emergency officials in the Kharkiv region said on Monday that overnight shelling had killed at least eight people and destroyed residential buildings, medical facilities, education and administrative buildings. .
Ukraine’s volunteer and professional fighters fought with great tenacity, although they were greatly outnumbered by the Russian army. Volunteers line up Saturday in Kyiv to join the army. Ukraine is also planning to add an international corps of 20,000 volunteers from dozens of countries, although it is not clear how many are in Ukraine.
“The whole world today is on Ukraine’s side, not only with words but also with actions,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Ukrainian TV channel Sunday evening.
The West has given Ukraine broad support, providing aid and arms shipments, while delivering massive sanctions on Russia. But no NATO troops were sent to Ukraine.
Zelensky has also drawn criticism from Western leaders for not responding with more force against Russia. He repeated his request for foreign protection agencies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something NATO has so far ruled out because of fears such a move would lead to a wider war.
Zelensky also asked the United States and NATO countries to send more fighters to Ukraine. But that idea is complicated by questions about how to supply the planes to Ukrainian pilots.
He then urged the West to tighten sanctions on Russia, saying “the aggressor’s boldness is a clear signal” that existing sanctions are not enough.
Russia has become increasingly isolated in the days since the invasion began, shutting itself off from outside sources as sanctions seep into its economy. The ruble has fallen in value and dozens of multinational companies have terminated or significantly downsized their work in the country.
On Sunday, American Express announced it would suspend operations in Russia, as well as in Russia’s ally Belarus. In addition, two of the accounting firms known as the Big Four, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, said on Sunday that they would be terminating relationships with member firms based in Russia.
TikTok announced Sunday that Russian users will no longer be able to post new videos or view videos shared from other parts of the world. The company blames Moscow’s new “fake news” law, which makes it illegal to describe the skirmish as an invasion. Netflix also cut its service to Russia but did not provide details.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress is looking for ways to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including by banning its imports of oil and energy products into the United States.
Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
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