Britain said on Saturday that Russia’s proposed ceasefire in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was probably an attempt to deflect international condemnation while giving itself a chance to reset its forces for a renewed offensive.
‘By accusing Ukraine of breaking the agreement, Russia is likely seeking to shift responsibility for current and future civilian casualties in the city,’ the British defence ministry said in an intelligence update.
Russia said earlier it had opened humanitarian corridors near the besieged cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha. Russia’s defence ministry then accused Ukrainian ‘nationalists’ of preventing civilians from leaving, RIA news agency reported.
But Mariupol’s city council said Russia was not observing the ceasefire.
Britain said on Saturday that Russia’s proposed ceasefire in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was probably an attempt to deflect international condemnation while giving itself a chance to reset its forces for a renewed offensive. Pictured: Smoke rises in Mariupol on Friday
‘By accusing Ukraine of breaking the agreement, Russia is likely seeking to shift responsibility for current and future civilian casualties in the city,’ the British defence ministry said in an intelligence update
After Russia’s defence ministry declared the ceasefire to the war’s fiercest battles, officials said the city’s 450,000 people could begin to leave by bus and private cars.
However city officials then called a delay in the evacuation, saying: ‘The Russian side does not adhere to the ceasefire and has continued shelling both Mariupol itself and its environs, and for security reasons, the evacuation of the civilian population has been postponed.’
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said the evacuation effort was stopped because the city of Mariupol remained under fire on Saturday.
‘The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area,’ he said. ‘Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor.’
Russia later announced the assault on the port city was back on.
‘Due to the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to influence nationalists or extend the regime of silence, offensive actions have been resumed at 18:00 Moscow time (1500 GMT),’ defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video briefing.
Konashenkov said that ‘not a single civilian’ was able to exit via the humanitarian corridors, and claimed ‘nationalist battalions’ used the ceasefire to ‘regroup and reinforce their positions’.
‘The population of these cities is held by nationalist formations as a human shield,’ Konashenkov added, parroting similar accusations made by President Vladimir Putin.
Medical workers try to save the life of Marina Yatsko’s 18 month-old son Kirill, who was fatally wounded by shelling, at a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, March 4, 2022
Capturing Mariupol represents a bigger prize for Russian forces as it would deal a severe blow to Ukraine’s maritime access and connect with troops coming from annexed Crimea and the Donbas.
Mariupol has endured heavy bombardment, a sign of its strategic value to Moscow due to its position between Russian-backed separatist-held eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Kyiv in 2014.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said planned civilian evacuations from Mariupol and Volnovakha were now unlikely to start on Saturday.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces were carrying out a wide-ranging offensive in Ukraine and had taken several towns and villages, Interfax news agency reported.
In an aerial combat near Zhytomyr, about 100 km (62 miles) west of Kyiv, it said, four Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets had been shot down. Reuters could not independently confirm the report.
A United Nations monitoring mission said at least 351 civilians had been confirmed killed and 707 injured in Ukraine so far since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24, adding that the real figures were likely to be ‘considerably higher’.
The number of refugees could rise to 1.5 million by Sunday night from 1.3 million now, the U.N. refugee agency chief said.
Meanwhile, it was announced today that Russia and Ukraine will hold a third round of talks on Monday about ending hostilities.
A view from a hospital window broken by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3
Russia is continuing to advance in southern Ukraine, with Mariupol under bombardment and Odessa and Mykolaiv under threat. Chernihiv, in the north, and Kharkiv, in the east, continue to come under heavy bombardment. The capital Kyiv is also under threat, though Ukrainian counter-attacks took out some Russian forces early on Friday
The money raised by the Mail Force charity – in record-breaking time – has already been put to good use, with mothers and children arriving over the border to Slovakia yesterday greeted by aid workers funded by our generous readers
Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia announced the next round of talks in a Facebook post on Saturday, without providing further details.
Delegations from Ukraine and Russia have had two rounds of talks since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbour on February 24.
In previous talks on Thursday, the sides agreed to open the humanitarian corridors to allow civilians out of some combat zones. Ukraine said on Saturday the talks had not produced results but that it would keep pursuing negotiations.
‘The third round of talks will take place on Monday,’ Arakhamia, who is also the parliamentary faction leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party, wrote in his post.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Zelenskiy’s attempt to secure direct NATO help in the conflict between their countries was not helping talks between the two sides, but that Moscow was ready for a third round.
Wary of being dragged into Moscow’s war on its neighbour, NATO on Friday turned down Zelenskiy’s appeal to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
This prompted the Ukrainian president to say that the alliance had given Russia the green light to continue its bombing campaign.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was open to talks with Lavrov, but only if they were ‘meaningful’.
The Kremlin said on Friday that progress in the negotiations would depend on Kyiv’s reaction to Moscow’s position on how to end the war, which had been conveyed to Ukraine on Thursday.
The Russian TASS news agency quoted Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky as saying the Ukrainian side had shown some openness in the second round to reaching an agreement.