A caravan of buses was on its way to Mariupol on Thursday in a new attempt to evacuate people of the besieged Ukrainian port city, after Russia agree to a limited ceasefire in the zone.
The Red Cross said its teams were traveling with medical supplies, hoping to help pull civilians out of the battered city on Friday. Previous attempts to establish a humanitarian corridor have been thwarted.
Russian forces, meanwhile, attacked suburbs of the capital recently retaken from Ukraine, according to a regional official. The new attacks in an area where Moscow had promised to reduce its offensive they undermined hope that progress was being made to end the war.
A satellite image shows the damage to the Red Cross building in Mariupol. Photo: AP
Ukrainian authorities indicated the day before that Russia had used artillery against the outskirts of kyiv and another city where he had promised to reduce his activity.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported new attacks on Ukrainian warehouses of fuel on Wednesday night, and Ukrainian authorities reported artillery fire in and around the northeastern city of Kharkiv over the past day.
Despite the fighting, the Russian army said it was committed to a ceasefire from Thursday morning on the route between Mariupol and the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhia.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said that 45 buses would go out to pick up civilians from the citywhich has been one of the hardest hit in the war.
A resident of Mariupol in front of the grave of a friend who was killed by Russian bombardment. photo: REUTERS
Food, water and medical supplies have been in short supply since Russia surrounded and began shelling the city weeks ago.
The civilians who have managed to flee have usually done so in private vehicles, but the number of vehicles that can circulate in the city has also been greatly reducedand there is little fuel left.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was helping manage the evacuation, said its teams had already left for Mariupol.
“It is absolutely important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it,” the organization said.
A woman stands in front of a building destroyed by Russian artillery in Mariupol. Photo: REUTERS
The same day the evacuation was announced, evidence emerged that a Red Cross warehouse in the city had been attacked earlier this month amid intense Russian attacks on the area.
Satellite images taken by Planet Labs PBC analyzed Thursday by Associated Press They showed clear damage to the roof of the warehouse, located next to the Kalmius River, near its mouth in the Sea of Azov. A red cross had been painted on the building. The group said that had no staff there since March 15.
Ukraine and Russia were scheduled to resume talks on Friday via video conference, according to the head of the Ukrainian delegation, David Arakhamia.
After five weeks of invasion that have left thousands dead on both sides, the number of Ukrainians who have fled the country reached four millionhalf of them children, according to the United Nations.
However, there was little hope that a resolution was in sight, especially after Russia’s change of heart and its most recent attacks.
Moscow had said on Tuesday that it would reduce its operations near kyiv and Chernigov to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for further negotiations”.
Image of the round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Turkey. Photo: AP)
The announcement was met with skepticism by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and the West. And shortly after, Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian shells had hit homes, shops, libraries and other civilian buildings in or around those areas.
The British Ministry of Defense also confirmed “considerable Russian artillery and missile attacks” around Chernigov.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday that troops from that and other areas they had begun to move mostly to the north, and some to neighboring Belarus.
A bus takes refugees from Mariupol to a refugee camp. Photo: REUTERS
Still, fighting continued in the suburbs of kyiv. Regional Governor Oleksander Palviuk said on social media that Russian forces had attacked Irpin and Makariv and that there were battles around Hostomel, all west or northwest of the capital.
As the West searched for clues as to what Russia’s next move might be, a top British intelligence official said Thursday that demoralized Russian soldiers in Ukraine they would have refused to carry out ordersThey sabotaged their own team and accidentally shot down their own planes.
During a speech in Canberra, Australia, Jeremy Fleming, director of the GCHQ electronic spy agency, said Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to have “significantly miscalibrated” the invasion.
US intelligence sources have expressed similar insights that Putin is receiving misleading information from advisers too scared to make honest assessments of the situation.