Civilians flee Ukrainian city as safe corridor opens | Government and politics

By Yuras Karmanau – Associated Press

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Buses full of people fleeing the Russian invasion in Ukraine began a procession along a snowy road out of a town on Tuesday as a renewed effort to evacuate civilians along safe corridors finally began.

The exit route from the eastern city of Sumy was one of five promised by the Russians to provide civilians with a way to escape the Russian onslaught.

Although a video released by Ukraine’s state communications agency showed people with bags boarding buses, it was unclear how long the effort would last. Previous attempts to bring civilians to safety amid Europe’s biggest ground war since World War II have crumbled with new attacks.

“The Ukrainian city of Sumy received a green corridor, the first stage of evacuation has begun,” the agency tweeted. Sumy is only 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russian border.

As the invasion entered well into its second week, Russian troops made significant progress in southern Ukraine, but stalled in some other areas. Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers have fortified the capital, Kiev, with hundreds of checkpoints and barricades designed to thwart a takeover. A steady rain of shells and rockets fell on other population centers, including the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where the mayor reported heavy artillery fire.

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“We can’t even pick up the bodies because the heavy gunfire doesn’t stop day or night,” Mayor Anatol Fedoruk said. “Dogs separate the bodies in the streets of the city. It’s a nightmare.”

In one of the most desperate towns, the beleaguered southern port of Mariupol, around 200,000 people – almost half of the population of 430,000 – hoped to flee, and Red Cross officials were waiting to hear when a corridor would be established.

The Russian Center for Coordination of Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk both said a ceasefire had been agreed on Tuesday morning to allow some civilians to evacuate, but the two parties disagreed on the location of the corridors.

The Russian coordination center suggested there would be more than one corridor, but most would lead to Russia, either directly or via Belarus. At the UN, however, the Russian ambassador has suggested that corridors from several cities could be opened and people could decide for themselves which direction to take.

Vereshchuk, meanwhile, said only that the two sides had agreed to an evacuation of civilians from the eastern city of Sumy to the Ukrainian city of Poltava. Among those to be evacuated are foreign students from India and China, she said.

She reiterated that proposals to evacuate civilians to Russia and its ally Belarus, which was a launching pad for the invasion, were unacceptable.

Demands for efficient crossings have increased amid intensified shelling by Russian forces. Constant shelling, including in some of Ukraine’s most populated areas, has resulted in a humanitarian crisis characterized by dwindling food, water and medical supplies.

Through it all, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were showing unprecedented courage.

“The problem is that for one Ukrainian soldier we have 10 Russian soldiers, and for one Ukrainian tank we have 50 Russian tanks,” Zelenskyy told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday night. But he noted that the strength gap was closing and that even if Russian forces “entered all of our cities”, they would be met with an insurgency.

A senior US official said several countries were discussing whether to supply the fighter jets that Zelenskyy pleaded for.

The besieged city of Mariupol lacked water, food and electricity, and mobile phone networks were down. Shops were looted as residents searched for essential goods. Police moved around the city, advising people to stay in shelters until they heard official messages from loudspeakers to evacuate.

Hospitals in Mariupol face severe shortages of antibiotics and painkillers, and doctors have performed some emergency procedures without them.

The lack of phone service left anxious citizens reaching out to strangers asking if they knew relatives living in other parts of the city and if they were safe.

The Battle of Mariupol is crucial because taking it could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Several hundred kilometers (miles) west of Mariupol, Russian forces continued their offensive in Mykolaiv, opening fire on the Black Sea shipbuilding center of half a million people, according to the Ukrainian army. Rescuers said they were putting out fires caused by rocket attacks in residential areas.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said in a statement on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces were continuing their defense operations in the city’s outskirts.

General staff said ‘demoralized’ Russian forces looted places they occupied, commandeered civilian buildings like farm sheds for military equipment and set up firing positions in populated areas . The claims could not be independently verified.

The Ukrainian Defense Forces also participated in operations in the northern city of Chernihiv and in the outskirts of Kiev, the general staff said.

In Kyiv, soldiers and volunteers have built hundreds of checkpoints to protect the city of nearly 4 million people, often using sandbags, piled up tires and spiked cables. Some barricades looked substantial, with heavy concrete slabs and sandbags stacked more than two stories high, while others looked more haphazard, with hundreds of pounds used to weigh down piles of tires.

“Every house, every street, every checkpoint, we will fight to the death if necessary,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

In Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, with 1.4 million inhabitants, heavy shelling hit apartment buildings.

“I think it hit the fourth floor below us,” Dmitry Sedorenko said from his hospital bed in Kharkiv. “Immediately everything started to burn and crumble.” When the ground collapsed beneath him, he crawled across the third floor, past the bodies of some of his neighbors.

In the small town of Horenka, where shelling reduced an area to ashes and shards of glass, rescuers and residents searched the ruins as chickens pecked around them.

“What do they do?” rescuer Vasyl Oksak asked the Russian attackers. “There were two small children and two elderly people living here. Come in and see what they’ve done.

In The Hague, Ukraine pleaded with the International Court of Justice to order a halt to the Russian invasion, claiming that Moscow was committing widespread war crimes.

Russia “uses tactics reminiscent of medieval siege warfare, encircling cities, cutting off escape routes and bombarding the civilian population with heavy munitions,” said Jonathan Gimblett, a member of Ukraine’s legal team.

The fighting has driven energy prices around the world soaring and stocks crashing, and is threatening the food supply and livelihoods of people around the world who depend on crops grown in the fertile sea region. Black.

The UN human rights office reported 406 confirmed civilian deaths, but said the true number was much higher. The invasion also caused 1.7 million people to flee Ukraine.

On Monday, Moscow again announced a series of demands to stop the invasion, including that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia and recognize eastern regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatist fighters as independent. He also insisted that Ukraine change its constitution to ensure that it will not join international bodies such as NATO and the EU. Ukraine has already rejected these claims.

Zelenskyy called for more punitive measures against Russia, including a global boycott of its oil exports, which are essential to its economy.

“If (Russia) does not want to follow civilized rules, then it should not receive goods and services from civilization,” he said in a video address.

Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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