Kyiv and Moscow blame each other for failed evacuation as Russian assault continues

  • Russia and Ukraine blame each other for evacuation problems
  • Up to 1.5 million refugees expected by Sunday evening
  • US Secretary of State Blinken in Poland for crisis talks
  • NATO says ‘no’ to no-fly zones over Ukraine
  • Russia accuses the West of economic ‘banditry’

LVIV/KIEV, Ukraine, March 5 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine accused each other on Saturday of failing to provide safe passage for civilians fleeing two towns besieged and shelled by Russian forces, on the 10th day of a war which has fueled Europe’s greatest humanitarian disaster in decades.

The war, which began with the invasion of Russia on February 24, sent nearly 1.5 million refugees fleeing west into the European Union and prompted unprecedented international sanctions against Moscow and warnings of a global recession.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its units had opened humanitarian corridors near the towns of Mariupol and Volnovakha, which were surrounded by its troops.

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But in Mariupol, the city council said Russia was not respecting the ceasefire and asked residents to return to shelters and await further information on evacuation.

The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian “nationalists” of preventing civilians from leaving, the RIA news agency reported.

The southeastern port has come under heavy shelling, a sign of its strategic value to Moscow due to its position between eastern Ukraine, held by Russian-backed separatists, and the Crimean peninsula from the sea Black, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

“Last night the shelling was harder and closer together,” said a member of staff from Médecins sans frontières/Médecins sans frontières (MSF), according to the aid agency. There was still no electricity, water, heating or cell phone, and food was scarce.

The Ukrainian government said the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha.

Only 17 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Saturday and no one left Volnovakha, Tass said citing pro-Russian separatists.


Despite limited ceasefire plans, the Russian Defense Ministry said a broad offensive would continue in Ukraine, where it denies targeting civilians or invading, calling its actions a “special military operation “.

Russian forces were carrying out strikes on military infrastructure and forces in separatist-held Donetsk were tightening the encirclement of Mariupol, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian disaster across the country. The number of refugees could reach 1.5 million by the end of the weekend from the current 1.3 million, the head of the UN refugee agency said on Saturday.

Women and small children walked through the Medyka checkpoint in southeastern Poland in freezing conditions. A man crossing in the other direction shouted to the crowd that the men must return to Ukraine and fight.

A woman, struggling to carry half a dozen bags, cried when snacks she had prepared for her and her young son, who was holding a green dinosaur toy, fell to the ground. She gave the boy a bag to carry as they walked slowly.

President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade has been condemned around the world. Ukrainian authorities have reported thousands of dead and injured civilians.

Moscow says its goal is to disarm its neighbour, counter what it sees as NATO aggression and capture leaders it calls neo-Nazis. On Saturday, he accused the West of acting like a bandit and threatened to retaliate without giving details.

“As you understand, there must be a corresponding response to economic banditry,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Read more

The conflict has also rattled international diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program, one of the few areas where Russia and the United States have worked together to curb what the West suspects is an Iranian weapons development plan. nuclear.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that new Western sanctions imposed on his country had become a stumbling block to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran.

A senior Iranian official told Reuters the Russian position was not helpful.


Ukraine says Russian forces have focused their efforts on encircling Kyiv and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, while aiming to establish a land bridge to Crimea.

Kiev, in the path of a Russian armored column that had been stuck for days outside the Ukrainian capital, came under attack again, with explosions audible from the city center.

British intelligence said on Saturday that the overall pace of Russian airstrikes and artillery over the past 24 hours had been lower than in previous days, although Russian forces had apparently advanced in southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was expected to press Washington for more help during a video call with the US Senate at 9:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) on Saturday.

At a meeting on Friday, NATO allies rejected Ukraine’s call for no-fly zones, saying they were increasing support but that intervening directly could worsen the situation.

“Please close the sky…because people are dying,” said Solomiya Zdryko, 18, who fled Lviv, western Ukraine. Read more

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Poland on Saturday and was due to discuss security and humanitarian assistance with Polish officials. Poland took in the vast majority of people fleeing Ukraine. Read more

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said 66,224 Ukrainian men had returned from abroad to join the fight against the Russian invasion. “Ukrainians, we are invincible,” he said in an online post.

The Ukrainian military said the armed forces are “fighting hard to liberate Ukrainian cities from Russian occupiers”, counterattacking in some areas and disrupting communications.

“The units of the invaders are demoralized, soldiers and officers of the occupation army continue to surrender, to flee, leaving weapons and equipment on Ukrainian soil,” he said, adding that at least 39 Russian planes and 40 helicopters had been destroyed.

Russia said it destroyed 82 Ukrainian aircraft, 708 armored vehicles, 74 multiple rocket launchers and 56 drones.

Reuters has not been able to independently verify these accounts on either side.

Russian forces have made their biggest advances in the south, where they this week captured their first major Ukrainian city, Kherson.

On Saturday, a crowd marched through the streets of the city of 250,000, waving Ukrainian flags and shouting “Kherson is Ukrainian!” as Russian troops stood by.

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Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets, Aleksandar Vasovic in Ukraine, Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty, Matthias Williams in Medyka, Guy Faulconbridge and William Schomberg in London, John Irish in Paris, François Murphy in Vienna, David Ljunggren in Ottawa and other offices from Reuters by Kim Coghill and Philippa Fletcher Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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