Ukraine announced this week that it will attempt to evacuate civilians from six cities besieged by Russian troops. Ukrainian civilians will use safe routes agreed with Moscow, according to a statement by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Olha Steanishyna.
Civilians will be able to escape Volnovakha, Izyum, Sumy, Enerhodar, and Mariupol – as well as several towns surrounding the capital city of Ukraine.
The announcement comes after multiple rounds of discussions, and roughly a week of Russia and Ukraine feeling to come to an agreement on humanitarian corridors that allow Ukrainian civilians to flee war.
More than 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country in the last two weeks, which is around 4% of the total population of Ukraine. The United Nations refugee agency revealed that the vast majority of refugees have crossed into Poland and at least half are children.
Russia Reportedly Holding 300,000 Civilians Hostage
On Monday, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba accused Russian forces of holding 300,000 civilians hostage in the south-eastern region of Mariupol. He also accused the Russians of not adhering to an agreement made between the two countries about allowing humanitarian evacuation to take place.
“Russia holds 300,000 civilians hostage in Mariupol, prevents humanitarian evacuation despite agreements with ICRC mediation. One child died of dehydration yesterday!,” Kuleba said on Twitter on Monday.
“War crimes are part of Russia’s deliberate strategy. I urge all states to publicly demand: RUSSIA, LET PEOPLE GO!” he also said.
What Safe Corridors Were Agreed?
Ukraine and Russia agreed on the need to establish humanitarian corridors last week, allowing civilians to escape Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Explain the agreement and what people are saying about Russia breaking the agreement.
Following the first round of discussions between the two countries, Russia announced that “substantial progress” had been made with regards to helping civilians leave the country.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also announced that a temporary halt to fighting in some locations was on the cards.
“That is, not everywhere, but only in those places where the humanitarian corridors themselves will be located, it will be possible to a ceasefire for the duration of the evacuation,” Podolyak announced last week.
On Monday, Moscow said it would open the humanitarian corridors as agreed, allowing Ukrainian cities to leave war-torn cities – but Kyiv accused Moscow of making it completely impossible to escape. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the corridors would open from 7am GMT on Tuesday, subject to the approval of Ukraine and offering routes from Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Sumy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of mining roads and destroying buses that were meant to be used to allow Ukrainian civilians to leave.
Some routes were also rejected by Ukraine as the routes led people directly to Russia or Belarus, a neighboring country that allied with Russia at the beginning of the invasion.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.