Russia issues ceasefire in southern Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate: NPR

Refugees, mostly women with children, wait to be transported at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022, after fleeing Ukraine.

Markus Schreiber / AP

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Markus Schreiber / AP

Refugees, mostly women with children, wait to be transported at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022, after fleeing Ukraine.

Markus Schreiber / AP

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – The Russian military will implement a ceasefire in two regions of Ukraine starting Saturday to allow the evacuation of civilians, Russian state media reported, but there was no immediate confirmation. immediately from Ukraine. That would be the first breakthrough in allowing civilians to escape war.

The Russian Defense Ministry statement said it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the town of Volnovakha in the east “from 10 a.m. Moscow time.” It’s not immediately clear from the vague statement how long the routes will be open.

The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, has called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the elderly to escape the fighting, calling those corridors “questionable”. No.1″

As Russian forces attacked strategic locations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized NATO for its refusal to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that “all those killed since the day This will also die for you.”

NATO says the no-fly zone could trigger widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia. But as the United States and other NATO members send weapons to Kyiv and more than 1 million refugees flood the continent, conflict is drawing to countries beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Russia continues to crack down on independent media reporting on the war, also blocking Facebook and Twitter, and many news outlets say they are suspending work in the country.

And in warning of a looming hunger crisis, the UN’s World Food Program said millions of people in Ukraine, a major global supplier of wheat, would need food aid “immediately”. ie.”

Ukraine’s president met with US senators on Saturday in a video conference as Congress considered a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for security needs and humanitarian aid.

In an emotional and bitter speech late Friday, Zelenskyy criticized NATO for its lack of a no-fly zone, saying it would completely untie Russia as it escalates its air offensive. road no. “The coalition has given the green light to bombing Ukrainian cities and villages,” he said, warning that “European history will remember this forever”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier on Friday ruled out a no-fly zone, saying NATO planes would have to shoot down the Russian plane.

In a separate video message to anti-war protesters in several European cities, Zelenskyy went on to call for help. “If we fall, you fall,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council will hold an open meeting on Monday about the worsening humanitarian situation. The UN estimates that 12 million people in Ukraine and 4 million who have fled to neighboring countries in the coming months will need humanitarian aid.

While the massive Russian armored force that threatens Ukraine’s capital remains stalled outside Kyiv, Putin’s army has launched hundreds of rocket and artillery attacks on cities and other locations across the country. across the country.

Russian forces failed to make significant progress on Friday in their offensive to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and Sea of ​​Azov, which would deal a major blow to the country’s economy. There was also no change in the north and east, where the Russian offensive stalled, met with fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said battles involving air strikes and artillery continued to take place northwest of Kyiv, while the northeastern cities of Kharkiv and Okhtyrka were heavily shelled.

He said Ukrainian forces are still holding the city of Chernihiv in the north and the city of Mykolaiv in the south. Ukrainian artillery also protected Ukraine’s largest port city, Odesa, from the constant attempts of Russian ships, he said.

More than 840 children were wounded in the war and 28 people were killed, according to the Ukrainian government. The UN human rights office said a total of 331 civilians were killed but the true number is probably much higher.

Kyiv’s central train station is still crowded with people desperate to flee the capital. “People just want to live,” says one woman, Ksenia.

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