Encircled Ukrainian city plans evacuation again, day after failed ceasefire


Lviv (Reuters) – Authorities in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol planned to start evacuating some residents from noon (1000 GMT) under a temporary ceasefire deal, after a similar deal a day earlier collapsed with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for the failure.

The city council said the evacuation would begin at noon and would extend until 9 p.m. (1900 GMT), a plan announced as Russia’s assault on Ukraine entered its 11th day and refugees continued to flood across the border into Ukraine’s neighbours.

Kyiv renewed its call for the West to toughen sanctions beyond an existing effort to isolate Russia economically, and to deliver more weapons to repel the invasion. Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation”.

Moscow and Kyiv traded blame over Saturday’s failed ceasefire to allow civilians to flee Mariupol and another southern city, Volnovakha. The Mariupol mayor has said he wants help more of the city’s 400,000 residents to leave.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, police said there was relentless Russian shelling and air raids in the northeast Kharkiv region.

The World Health Organization said there had been several attacks on Ukrainian healthcare facilities. The attacks caused multiple deaths and injuries, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Twitter message, but gave no details.

“Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas.

People who have been able escape Ukraine spilled into Poland, Romania, Slovakia and elsewhere. Their numbers are expected to reach 1.5 million by Sunday.

“We don’t want to leave Ukraine – we love it,” said Olha Kucher, director of the Zaporizhzhia Central Christian Orphanage, speaking in the western city of Lviv as she evacuated children. “But unfortunately we must leave.”

Drive This Evil Out’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on those in areas occupied by Russian troops to fight.

“We must go outside and drive this evil out of our cities,” he said in an address on Saturday night.

British military intelligence said on Sunday that Russian forces were targeting populated areas in Ukraine, comparing the tactics to those Russia used in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016. But it said Ukrainian resistance was slowing the advance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Saturday that he wanted a “demilitarised” and “denazified” neutral Ukraine. He likened Western sanctions “to a declaration of war,” adding: “Thank God it has not come to that.”

Ukraine and Western countries says Putin’s reasons are a baseless pretext for the invasion and have imposed sweeping sanctions to cripple its economy.

The United States has promised to send more weapons and has said it could escalate sanctions. President Joe Biden has sought $10 billion in emergency funding to respond to the crisis.

Zelenskiy asked for help securing aircraft from European allies in a call with U.S. lawmakers. Washington said it was working with Poland as Warsaw considered providing fighter jets.

He also called for more lethal aid and repeated a call for a no-fly zone, a move NATO has resisted for fear that it would escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Russia has told the EU and NATO to stop sending “state-of-the-art weapons systems” to Ukraine.


Sanctions have pushed many Western companies to exit investments in Russia, while some Russian banks have been shut out of a global financial payment systems, driving down the rouble and forcing Moscow to jack up interest rates.

In the latest tightening of the screws, U.S. payment companies Visa Inc (V.N) and MasterCard Inc said they would suspend credit card operations in Russia.

International mediation efforts have continued.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Putin on Saturday and spoke to Zelenskiy, while Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to talk to Putin on Sunday. read more

Russian media reported Ukraine was close to building a plutonium-based “dirty bomb” nuclear weapon, citing an unidentified source and giving no evidence.

Putin previously said Ukraine was using Soviet know-how to create its own nuclear weapons, a charge Ukraine denies, saying it had no plans to rejoin the nuclear club after giving up its nuclear arms in 1994 following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine’s military said more than 11,000 Russian troops had been killed so far and 88 Russian aircraft shot down. Reuters could not corroborate the claim.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it was rushing more emergency supplies to Ukraine as hospitals faced shortages.

More than 350 civilians have been killed, according to the U.N. rights office, with hundreds more injured.

The U.N. refugee agency estimated the number of refugees could swell to 4 million by July.

Demonstrations were planned on Sunday in Washington and elsewhere after jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called for worldwide protests on March 6 against the war. Protests were held in Chile, Paris and Israel on Saturday.

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