Russia’s Ministry of Defense has announced that it would be honoring a ceasefire in war-torn Ukraine so as to allow civilians an opportunity to leave current and potential battle zones via “humanitarian corridors.”
The ceasefire begant 10 a.m. Moscow time (2 a.m. U.S. Eastern time) on March 8, International Women’s Day and 12 days after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Ukraine has criticized the move, since the corridors, opened in the cities of Kiev, Kharkov, and Mariupol, lead into the territory of Russia or its ally, Belarus, rather than to unoccupied parts of Ukraine.
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Previously on March 5, Russia and Ukraine had negotiated a deal for a humanitarian corridor in Mariupol, a southern Ukrainian coastal city that has been surrounded for several days. However, the deal fell, was delayed, and haphazardly implemented.
Ukrainian media said the Russians violated the ceasefire by shelling Ukrainian positions and using the opportunity to advance. Russian sources said it was instead the Ukrainian defenders, chiefly the ultra-nationalist “Azov Battalion,” that impeded the free movement of civilians.
More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have already fled the country due to the war, which has killed thousands. Most of the refugees have gone to Poland.
According to Ukrainian defense authorities, the Kremlin is planning to follow up on the initial advance with a massive second wave of troops to encircle major cities and take more territory in the south.