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Buses full of refugees have started leaving the besieged Ukrainian city of Sumy in the first evacuation through a humanitarian corridor agreed with Russia after several failed attempts in recent days to allow civilians to escape the violence of the uninvading invasion. provoked from Ukraine by Moscow.
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Regional Governor Dmitro Zhivitskiy said in a video statement on March 8 that the first buses had already left Sumy, located just 50 kilometers from the Russian border, for the central Ukrainian city of Poltava, some 175 kilometers further south.
However, another agreed humanitarian corridor for the southern city of Mariupol was attacked by Russian forces, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
“The enemy launched an attack heading exactly towards the humanitarian corridor,” the ministry said. said on facebookadding that the Russian army “did not let children, women and the elderly leave the city”.
As fighting raged in many parts of the country for a 13th day since the launch of the February 24 invasion, residents were also leaving the town of Irpin, a frontline suburb of Kyiv, saying the shelling of the night were among the most intense to date.
Sumy was also subjected to heavy Russian bombardment. At least 21 people, including two children, died in a Russian airstrike on the city, local authorities said on March 8. At least four Ukrainian soldiers were also killed, according to the army.
The evacuation began after Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said earlier on March 8 that the two sides had agreed to a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ceasefire for the evacuation of Sumy.
“The Ukrainian city of Sumy received a green corridor, the first stage of the evacuation has begun,” the Ukrainian state communication agency tweeted.
WATCH: Thousands of people are trying to flee the Ukrainian town of Irpin for the capital, Kiev, nearly 25 kilometers away. Ukrainian forces blew up bridges near the town to stop advancing Russian tanks. Current Time filmed local residents trying to escape Russian bombardment and flee by any means possible.
According to the United Nations, the Russian invasion forced more than 2 million people to flee Ukraine.
Many more remain trapped in besieged towns short of food, water and medicine amid Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II.
The destination of the other corridors was not immediately clear, and it was uncertain whether Ukraine would agree to use them if they took Ukrainians to Russia or its close ally Belarus.
The establishment of the corridors has been a point of contention between the two sides, and the failure of previous attempts has trapped thousands of people inside cities as they are bombarded by Russian shelling and artillery.
WATCH: RFE/RL has acquired drone footage believed to be of Russian truck-mounted Grad rockets launched in Ukraine’s Kyiv region on March 5. The footage was reportedly shot by volunteers helping the Ukrainian army. The group would not give a more precise location for security reasons.
The announcements came after a third round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations was held on March 7 in neighboring Belarus.
The Ukrainian army, meanwhile, said on March 8 that it had succeeded in slowing down the Russian attack, saying that although “the enemy continues an offensive operation, the pace of advance of its troops has slowed considerably. “.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said early on March 8 that Ukrainian forces were still defending their positions in the southern, eastern and northern sectors of the country and that Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv were still in Ukrainian hands.
The statements could not be independently verified.
In addition, the Ukrainian Red Cross distributed hygiene and food kits, warm clothes and medicines to thousands of people.
The UN refugee chief said on March 8 that the number of people fleeing Russia’s advance into Ukraine had reached 2 million.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, made the remarks at a press conference in Oslo after visiting Moldova, Poland and Romania, all of which have hosted refugees flooding in from Ukraine. since Russia invaded the country on February 24.
Grandi said that, by comparison, the Balkan wars in Bosnia and Kosovo saw “maybe 2-3 million people, but over an eight-year period”.
While other parts of the “world have seen this,” Grandi added, “in Europe it’s the first time since World War II.”
More than 1.2 million of these refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, including 141,500 on March 7, the Polish border guard said on March 8.
At the United Nations, Griffiths told a March 7 Security Council meeting that his office had sent a team to Moscow to coordinate with the Russian military to try to step up the delivery of aid. humanitarian.
Griffiths said the UN and its partners have already provided food to hundreds of thousands of people, and that the World Food Program is “setting up supply chain operations to provide immediate food and species to 3-5 million people inside Ukraine”.
On March 7, Russian forces opened fire on the town of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers south of Kiev. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas caused by rocket attacks.
Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander General Valery Zaluzhny said Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian plane over Kiev and a second Russian plane was shot down in an air battle near the city.