LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Even as Russia announced a ceasefire from Monday morning and the opening of humanitarian corridors in several regions, its armed forces continued to strike Ukrainian cities, several rocket launchers hitting residential buildings.
The announcement of a limited ceasefire came a day after hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians trying to flee to safety were forced to shelter from Russian shelling of central, northern and southern towns. southern Ukraine. Officials from both sides have scheduled a third round of talks on Monday.
Russian forces continued their offensive, opening fire on the city of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers south of the capital Kiev, the Ukrainian general staff announced on Monday morning. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas caused by rocket attacks.
The shelling also continued in the suburbs of Kiev, notably in Irpin, which was cut off from electricity, water and heating for three days.
“Russia continues to fire rockets, bombs and artillery at cities and settlements in Ukraine,” the General Staff said. “The invaders continue to use Belarus’ airfield network to conduct airstrikes on Ukraine.”
The Russians have also targeted humanitarian corridors, taking women and children hostage and planting weapons in residential areas of cities, according to the General Staff.
A Russian task force said a ceasefire would begin on Monday morning, the 12th day of the war, for civilians in Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city , and Sumy. It was not immediately clear whether the fighting would stop beyond the areas mentioned in the task force statement, or when the ceasefire would end.
The announcement follows two failed attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, from where the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 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 were announced at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
Evacuation routes published by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, citing the Defense Ministry, show that civilians will be able to leave for Russia and Belarus. Russian forces will observe the ceasefire with drones, the task force said.
The previous breakdown in evacuations came as Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling was intensifying across the country.
“Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make bloody ones,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday. “Today a family was killed in Irpin. Man, woman and two children. Just on the road. Like in a shooting range.
Putin said Moscow’s attacks could be stopped “only if Kiev ceases hostilities”. As he has often done, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war, telling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kiev must end all hostilities and meet “Russia’s well-known demands”.
Putin launched his invasion with a series of false accusations against Kiev, including that it is led by neo-Nazis bent on undermining Russia with the development of nuclear weapons.
As Russian attacks worsened, a brief respite from fighting in Mariupol collapsed. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in other major cities, local officials said.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the diseased Russian brain decides when to start shooting and at whom,” Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Telegram.
On what is known as Forgiveness Sunday in Orthodox Christianity, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would never forgive the bombing of its homes, the killing of unarmed people and the destruction of its infrastructure.
“And God will not forgive, not today or tomorrow – ever. And instead of a day of forgiveness there will be a day of judgment. Of that I am sure,” he said in a video address.
The death toll remains uncertain. The UN says it has only confirmed a few hundred civilians killed, but also warned the number was grossly underestimated.
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.
Video footage showed a shell crashing into a city street, not far from a bridge used by people fleeing the fighting. You could see a group of fighters trying to help the family. Arestovich said the government is doing everything possible to resume evacuations.
“It will probably represent an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said of Russian tactics as the war entered its 12th day on Monday. The fighting has driven 1.5 million people to flee the country, which the head of the UN refugee agency has called Europe’s “fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II”. .
British military officials have compared Russia’s tactics to those used by Moscow in Chechnya and Syria, where encircled towns have been pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.
Food, water, medicine and nearly all other supplies were desperately short in Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11 a.m. ceasefire that would allow civilians and wounded to be evacuated. . But the Russian attacks quickly shut down the humanitarian corridor, Ukrainian officials said.
The handful of residents who managed to flee the city before the closure of the humanitarian corridor said the city of 430,000 had been devastated.
“We saw it all: burning houses, all people sitting in basements,” said Yelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-declared republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-separatists. -Russians. “No communication, no water, no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing.”
Russia has made significant progress in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Sea of Azov. Capturing Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 in a move most other countries considered illegal.
But much of the Russian advance is blocked, including a huge military convoy that has stood almost motionless for days north of Kiev.
A senior US defense official said on Sunday that the United States estimates that about 95% of Russian forces that had been deployed around Ukraine are now inside the country. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russian forces continue to advance in an attempt to isolate Kiev, Kharkhiv and Chernihiv, but are facing strong Ukrainian resistance.
Emergency officials in the Kharkiv region said on Monday that the nighttime shelling had killed at least eight people and destroyed residential buildings, medical and educational facilities and administrative buildings.
Ukrainian professional and volunteer fighters fought with great tenacity, although they were greatly outmatched by the Russian army. Volunteers lined up in Kiev on Saturday to join the army. Ukraine also plans to fill out an international legion of 20,000 volunteers from dozens of countries, although it is unclear how many were in Ukraine.
“The whole world is on Ukraine’s side today, not only in words but in deeds,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Ukrainian television on Sunday evening.
The West has largely backed Ukraine, offering aid and arms shipments and hitting Russia with sweeping sanctions. But no NATO troops have been sent to Ukraine.
Zelenskyy also criticized Western leaders for not responding more forcefully to Russia. He reiterated a demand for foreign protectors to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which NATO has so far ruled out due to fears such action could lead to war much wider.
Zelenskyy also asked the United States and NATO countries to send more fighter jets to Ukraine. But this idea is complicated by questions about how to provide planes to Ukrainian pilots.
He then urged the West to toughen its sanctions on Russia, saying the “boldness of the aggressor is a clear signal” that existing sanctions are not enough.
Russia has grown increasingly isolated since the invasion began, closing itself off to outside sources of information as sanctions bite deep into its economy. The ruble plunged in value and dozens of multinational corporations ended or drastically reduced their work in the country.
On Sunday, American Express announced that it would suspend operations in Russia, as well as in Russia-allied Belarus. In addition, two of the so-called big accounting firms, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, said on Sunday they would end relationships with their Russia-based member firms.
TikTok announced on Sunday that Russian users will not be able to post new videos or view videos shared elsewhere in the world. The company blamed Moscow’s new “fake news” law, which, among other things, prohibits portraying the fighting as an invasion. Netflix also cut its service to Russia but did not provide any details.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress is considering ways to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including banning the import of its petroleum and energy products into the United States. United.
Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
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