Russia announced a ceasefire starting Monday morning and the opening of humanitarian corridors in several areas, a day after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians attempting to flee to safety were forced to shelter from Russian shelling that pummeled cities in Ukraine’s center, north and south, reported news agency AP.
As Ukraine officials described a “catastrophic” situation during failed evacuation efforts in Kyiv’s suburbs, officials from both sides also planned a third round of talks Monday.
A Russian task force said a ceasefire would start Monday morning, the 12th day of the war, for civilians from the capital Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and Sumy. It wasn’t immediately clear if fighting would stop stop beyond the areas mentioned in the task force’s statement, or when the ceasefire would end.
The announcement follows two failed attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, from which the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated 200,000 people were trying to flee. Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the failure. The Russian task force said Monday’s ceasefire and the opening of the corridors was announced at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
Evacuation routes published by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, citing the Defense Ministry, show that civilians will be able to leave to Russia and Belarus. Russian forces will be observing the ceasefire with drones, the task force said.
The earlier breakdown of evacuations came as Ukraine officials said that Russian shelling intensified across the country.
“Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make bloody ones,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday. “Today a family was killed in Irpin. Man, woman and two children. Right on the road. As in a shooting gallery.”
Putin said Moscow’s attacks could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities.” As he has often done, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kyiv needed to stop all hostilities and fulfill “the well-known demands of Russia.”
Putin launched his invasion with a string of false accusations against Kyiv, including that it is led by neo-Nazis intent on undermining Russia with the development of nuclear weapons.
As Russian attacks worsened, a brief reprieve from fighting in Mariupol collapsed. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in other large cities, local officials reported.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,“ Ukraine Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.
On what is known as Forgiveness Sunday in Orthodox Christianity, Zelenskyy said Ukraine will never forgive the shelling of its homes, the killing of unarmed people and the destruction of its infrastructure.
“And God will not forgive, either today or tomorrow — never. And instead of a day of forgiveness, there will be a judgment day. Of this I am sure,” he said in a video address.
The death toll remains unclear. The U.N. says it has confirmed just a few hundred civilian deaths but also warned that the number is a vast undercount.
Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich described a “catastrophic” situation in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where efforts to evacuate residents on Sunday failed. About eight civilians, including a family, were killed by Russian shelling in Irpin, according to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin.