Officials halted the planned evacuation of civilians from the Ukrainian-controlled Azov Sea port city Mariupol on Saturday, accusing Russia of continued shelling despite a promise to provide safe passage.
Russia recognizes Mariupol as part of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. However, the city itself has been held by Ukraine.
Moscow announced a temporary ceasefire to allow residents to leave the city, which is blockaded by Russian forces, through agreed humanitarian corridors. However, Mariupol City Council said shortly after 12:40pm local time that the evacuation had been “postponed.”
“The Russian side doesn’t abide by the ceasefire and has continued to shell Mariupol and its surroundings,” the council said in a brief statement on social media. The council added that the evacuation will resume once the ceasefire is restored.
The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, insisted that it had secured a safe passage on the humanitarian routes from Mariupol and nearby Volnovakha.
The ministry reiterated its claim that Ukrainian “nationalists” have not been allowing civilians to leave and used the brief pause in the Russian offensive to pull in more forces. The Defense Ministry added that it was ready to work with the Ukrainian side to resolve the humanitarian crisis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov previously accused the Ukrainians of using civilians in Mariupol and elsewhere as a “human shield.” RT was unable to independently verify the situation in Mariupol.
Moscow attacked Ukraine last week, arguing that it was defending the DPR and the neighboring Lugansk People’s Republic, another entity that seceded from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow also said it was seeking the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. Kiev said the invasion was entirely unprovoked and appealed to the international community for help.
Ukraine has accused Russian troops of shelling residential areas in Kiev and other major cities, including Kharkov. Moscow maintains that it only targets military sites, such as airfields and radar stations.
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