A new attempt to evacuate civilians purportedly holed up at Mariupol’s Azovstal plant has been “cynically disrupted,” Moscow says
A new attempt to set up a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians allegedly trapped at the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol has failed, the Russian military admitted late on Monday. Moscow and Kiev have blamed one another for the evacuation attempt yielding no result.
“The Kiev authorities today again cynically disrupted this humanitarian operation. As of April 25, 2022, at 8pm (MSK), no one has used the proposed humanitarian corridor,” Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said in a statement.
The official squarely pinned the blame for the failure of the new evacuation attempt on the Kiev authorities. Despite repeatedly bemoaning the fate of the civilians said to be holed up alongside Ukrainian fighters at the plant, Kiev has not taken any “practical steps” to facilitate their evacuation, Mizintsev pointed out.
“Such absolutely illogical and inconsistent behavior of the Kiev authorities once again confirms their blatant indifference to the fate of individual people – to the citizens of their own country,” he stressed.
Earlier in the day – shortly after the corridor was supposed to open at 2pm MSK – Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk pinned the blame for the evacuation failure on Moscow. While she first told the Ukrainian media that Kiev was ready to do “everything” to make it work, shortly afterwards she claimed the corridor was not set up properly and did not work.
“It is important to understand that the humanitarian corridor is opened by agreement of both parties. The corridor announced unilaterally does not provide security, and therefore, in fact, is not a humanitarian corridor,” Vereshchuk claimed in a Telegram statement. “I declare officially and publicly: unfortunately, there are no agreements on humanitarian corridors from Azovstal today.”
The battle for Mariupol has been raging for almost two months, as Russian and Donetsk forces completely surrounded the city. The Azovstal steel plant remains the last stronghold under Ukrainian control there, with the fighters of the notorious neo-Nazi Azov regiment and other units holed up at the sprawling industrial facility. Russia had previously offered the Ukrainian fighters an opportunity to lay down their arms and surrender, but they refused, demanding to be evacuated into an unspecified “third country” instead.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
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