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6 Mar, 2022 17:57

Red Cross calls on Russia and Ukraine to agree on civilian corridors

Safe passage efforts in Mariupol have failed for a second time
Red Cross calls on Russia and Ukraine to agree on civilian corridors

A second attempt to set up a humanitarian corridor allowing residents of Mariupol and Volnovakha to safely escape the fighting in Ukraine has failed, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) revealed on Sunday.

The Russian Defense Ministry had declared a temporary cease-fire on Saturday morning in order to allow some 200,000 residents of Mariupol, along with 15,000 from Volnovakha, safe passage. That effort collapsed as officials in Mariupol accused Russia of shelling the city, while Moscow accused Ukrainian “nationalists” of not allowing the civilians to leave the cities and using them as human shields.

The ceasefire was also supposed to permit work to begin on reconstructing Mariupol's damaged electrical and water supply systems while allowing aid workers to deliver food and first aid to those still in the city. The evacuation process would have unfolded over “several stages spanning several days.” 

The second attempt, which saw the Donetsk People’s Republic guarantee a safe exit for residents of both cities lasting from 10am to 9pm local time, also failed. The DPR spokesman, Eduard Basurin, blamed Ukraine, citing the government’s refusal to guarantee a cease-fire in both cities.

The ICRC has pleaded with both Russia and Ukraine to get their affairs in order regarding the much-needed humanitarian corridor, urging the warring parties to agree “not just in principle but also on the details and parameters” of such an escape route, from logistical matters like time and exact route to the categories of people who are to be evacuated. They should also agree on whether aid can be brought into cities by the same route, the ICRC said in a statement released on Sunday, adding that its teams required security guarantees in order to be able to operate.

Moscow and Kiev have held two rounds of peace talks in Belarus thus far, with a third planned for Monday. Russia started a military operation in Ukraine last month with the stated aim of demilitarizing and denazifying the country after recognizing the independence of the two breakaway republics in the Donbass, the DPR and the Lugansk People’s Republic. The country is also seeking to deter Ukraine from joining NATO, which Russia views as “unacceptable”.

Kiev, which denounced the offensive as unprovoked, has meanwhile sought and received hundreds of millions of dollars in military and financial aid from NATO countries. Ukraine has argued this is not sufficient, demanding a no-fly zone and other measures, which could potentially result in a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.