Russia announces limited ceasefire in Ukraine to allow evacuations but continues broad offensive


Russia said its forces stopped firing near two Ukrainian towns on Saturday to allow safe passage for civilians fleeing the fighting, but was continuing its broad offensive in Ukraine, where the capital Kiev came under attack again.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its units had opened humanitarian corridors near the towns of Mariupol and Volnovakha which were surrounded by its troops, Russian news agency RIA reported.

In Mariupol, citizens would be allowed to leave for a five-hour window, he said, citing city officials.

There was no immediate confirmation that the firing had ceased and it was unclear whether the ceasefire would be extended to other areas, or how long it would last, as the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia was entering its tenth day.

The Russian Defense Ministry said a broad offensive would continue in Ukraine, RIA said.

Aid agencies have warned of an unfolding humanitarian disaster as food, water and medical supplies run out and refugees flood into western Ukraine and neighboring European countries.

A Ukrainian negotiator said on Thursday that a second round of ceasefire talks with Russia had failed to yield the results Kyiv had hoped for, but the two sides had reached an agreement on the creation of humanitarian corridors. Mykhailo Podolyak said the two sides were considering a possible temporary ceasefire in some areas to allow the evacuation of citizens.

According to Mayor Vadym Boychenko, in the port city of Mariupol in the southeast of the island – a key price – there is no water, heating or electricity and food is running out.

“We are just destroyed,” he said.

According to Ukraine’s state service of special communications and information protection, Russian forces focused their efforts on encircling Kyiv and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, while aiming to establish a land bridge to Crimea.

Kiev, in the path of a Russian armored column that had been stuck for days outside the Ukrainian capital, came under attack again, with explosions audible from the city center.

Ukrainian media outlet Suspilne quoted authorities in Sumy, about 300 km (190 miles) east of Kyiv, as saying there is a risk of fighting on the streets of the city, urging residents to stay in shelters .

President Vladimir Putin’s actions have drawn near universal condemnation, and many countries have imposed heavy sanctions as the West balances punishment with avoiding a widening conflict.

INFORMATION WAR

Russia’s parliament on Friday passed a law imposing a prison sentence of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “false” information about the military.

“This law will impose penalties – and very severe penalties – on those who have lied and made statements discrediting our armed forces,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Russia blocks Facebook for restricting state-backed channels and the websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America.

CNN and CBS News said they would stop broadcasting in Russia, and other outlets removed the bylines of Russia-based reporters as they assessed the situation.

MORE SANCTIONS ON THE WAY?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to pressure Washington for more help during a Zoom call with the entire US Senate at 9:30 a.m. ET (2:30 p.m. GMT) on Saturday.

The United States is weighing cuts to Russian oil imports and ways to minimize the impact on global supplies and consumers as lawmakers fast-track a bill that would ban Russian energy imports. Global oil prices jumped more than 20% this week on fears of supply shortages, posing a risk to global economic growth.

At a meeting on Friday, NATO allies rejected Ukraine’s call for no-fly zones, saying they were increasing support but that intervening directly could worsen the situation.

“We have a responsibility (…) to prevent this war from spreading beyond Ukraine, because that would be even more dangerous, more devastating and cause even more human suffering,” the secretary general said. of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

Zelenskiy called the summit “weak” and “confusing”.

“It was clear that not everyone sees the battle for Europe’s freedom as the number one goal,” he said.

More EU sanctions were to come, potentially including a ban on Russian-flagged ships in European ports and blocking imports of steel, timber, aluminum or coal, the Irish minister said of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

The Ukrainian military said in a statement on Saturday that the armed forces are “fighting fiercely to liberate Ukrainian cities from Russian occupiers”, counterattacking in some areas and disrupting communications.

“The units of the invaders are demoralized, soldiers and officers of the occupation army continue to surrender, to flee, leaving weapons and equipment on Ukrainian soil,” he said, adding that at least 39 Russian planes and 40 helicopters had been destroyed. Reuters was unable to independently verify these accounts.

Thousands of people waited for hours on Friday outside the station in the western city of Lviv to board trains bound for Poland. The families arrived with few possessions. Some were in wheelchairs, others accompanied by pet dogs and cats, unsure of their fate.

“We only took with us what was strictly necessary,” said Yana Tebyakina. “A change of clothes. That’s it. Everything else we left behind, our whole life stayed at home.”

Russian forces have made their biggest advances in the south, where they this week captured their first major Ukrainian city, Kherson. Shelling has worsened in recent days in the northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Chernihiv.


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