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Lviv/Kyiv — Russia announced new “humanitarian corridors” on Monday to transport Ukrainians trapped under its bombardment to Russia itself and its ally Belarus, a move immediately dismissed by Kyiv as an immoral stunt.
The announcement came after two days of failed ceasefires to let civilians escape the besieged city of Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of people are trapped without food and water, under relentless bombardment and unable to evacuate their wounded.
The new “corridors” would be opened at 10am Moscow time (7am GMT) from the capital Kyiv and the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Sumy, as well as Mariupol, Russia’s defence ministry said.
According to maps published by the RIA news agency, the corridor from Kyiv would lead to Belarus, while civilians from Kharkiv would be permitted to go only to Russia. Russia would also mount an airlift to take Ukrainians from Kyiv to Russia, the ministry said.
“Attempts by the Ukrainian side to deceive Russia and the whole civilised world ... are useless this time,” the ministry said.
A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “completely immoral” and said Russia was trying to “use people’s suffering to create a television picture”.
“They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.
“This is one of the problems that is causing the humanitarian corridors to break down. They seem to agree to them, but they themselves want to supply humanitarian aid for a picture on TV, and want the corridors to lead in their direction.”
Russia’s invasion has been condemned around the world, sent more than 1.5-million Ukrainians fleeing abroad, and triggered sweeping sanctions that have isolated Russia in a way never before experienced by such a large economy.
Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians. It calls the campaign it launched on February 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and arrest leaders it calls neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies say this a transparent pretext for an invasion to conquer a nation of 44-million people.
Oil prices soared to their highest levels since 2008 in Asian trade after the Biden administration said it was exploring banning imports of Russian oil. Russia provides 7% of global supply.
Japan, which counts Russia as its fifth-biggest supplier of crude oil, is also in discussion with the US and European countries about possibly banning Russian oil imports, Kyodo News reported on Monday.
Europe relies on Russia for crude oil and natural gas but has become more open to the idea of banning Russian products, a source familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
Russian forces are converging on Kyiv, a city of 3-million, but have faced stiff resistance and have suffered heavy losses, according to Ukrainian authorities.
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian forces are “beginning to accumulate resources for the storming of Kyiv”, after days of slow progress in their main advance on the capital, south of Belarus.
About 200,000 people remain trapped in the besieged Black Sea port of Mariupol, most sleeping underground to escape more than six days of shelling by Russian forces that has cut off food, water, power and heating, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Ukrainian authorities said on Monday the southern city of Mykolayiv is being shelled.
Russian media cited pro-Russian separatists as saying an oil terminal in Luhansk is on fire after what they believe was a Ukrainian missile strike.
Russia calls the campaign it launched on February 24 a “special military operation”. It has repeatedly denied attacking civilian areas and says it has no plans to occupy Ukraine.
The civilian death toll from hostilities across Ukraine since Russia launched the invasion is 364, including more than 20 children, the UN said on Sunday, adding that hundreds have been wounded.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.