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Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow says it will open humanitarian corridors to cities

Move follows appeals by Turkish and French presidents over the weekend, as UN says 1.5 million people have fled the fighting
Russia's invasion has sent more than 1.5 million people fleeing abroad, and triggered sweeping western-led sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy (AFP)

Russia's military will hold fire and open humanitarian corridors in several Ukrainian cities on Monday, the defence ministry said, after fighting halted weekend evacuation efforts and civilian casualties mounted.

However, Ukraine said the proposal was "completely immoral" after Moscow suggested it would only allow people to flee provided they exited to Belarus or Russia.

Kyiv said negotiations were taking place with Russia on establishing humanitarian corridors but that they were unlikely to be set up while Russian forces keep trying to advance.

Russia's defence ministry said the corridors would be opened at 10am Moscow time (07:00 GMT) from the capital Kyiv, as well as the cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol and Sumy, and were being set up at the personal request of French President Emmanuel Macron.

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According to maps published by Russia's RIA news agency, the corridor from Kyiv will lead to Russian ally Belarus, and civilians from Kharkiv will only have a corridor leading to Russia. 

Corridors from Mariupol and Sumy will lead both to other Ukrainian cities and to Russia.

Those who want to leave Kyiv will also be able to be airlifted to Russia, the ministry said, adding it would use drones to monitor the evacuation.

"Attempts by the Ukrainian side to deceive Russia and the whole civilised world... are useless this time," the ministry said.

Erdogan appeal

A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian citizens should be allowed to leave their homes through Ukrainian territory, and accused Russia of deliberately hampering previous evacuation attempts.

"This is a completely immoral story. People's suffering is used to create the desired television picture," the spokesperson said in a written message.

"These are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday had urged his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to declare a ceasefire in Ukraine, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement.

However, Putin warned Ukraine that Russia's military operation would only be halted if Kyiv stopped resisting and fulfilled all of the Kremlin's demands, according to a Kremlin readout of the call between the two leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Putin in Moscow on Saturday to discuss the Ukraine crisis, his spokesperson said.

The move was coordinated with US, Germany and France, an Israeli official later detailed.

Following the meeting with Putin, Bennett spoke by phone to Zelensky. 

Oil and wheat prices soar

Russia's invasion has been condemned around the world, sent more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing abroad, and triggered sweeping western-led sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy.

However, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday that his country's friendship with Russia was "rock solid" and the prospects for cooperation are very broad.

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Cooperation between the two countries brings benefits and well-being to the two peoples, he told his annual news conference on the sidelines of China's annual meeting of parliament.

China has refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine or call it an invasion while asking western countries to respect Russia's "legitimate security concerns".

Wang said the causes of the "Ukraine situation" were "complex" and had not happened overnight.

"Solving complex problems requires calmness and rationality, rather than adding fuel to the fire and intensifying contradictions," he said.

China is willing to continue to make its own efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis and the country's Red Cross will "as soon as possible" provide a batch of aid to Ukraine, Wang said, without giving details.

Oil prices soared to their highest levels since 2008 in Asian trade after the administration of US President Joe Biden said it was exploring banning imports of Russian oil. 

Russia provides seven percent of global supply.

Other commodities sourced from the region, such as wheat and metals, also sustained sharp price rises.


Russia, which calls the campaign it launched on 24 February a "special military operation, " has repeatedly denied attacking civilian areas and says it has no plans to occupy Ukraine.

The general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said Russian forces were "beginning to accumulate resources for the storming of Kyiv", a city of 3 million, after days of slow progress in their main advance south from Belarus.

About 200,000 people remained trapped in the besieged Black Sea port of Mariupol, most sleeping underground to escape more than six days of shelling by Russian forces that has cut off food, water, power and heating, according to the Ukrainian authorities.

About half of the 400,000 people in the city were due to be evacuated on Sunday, but that effort was aborted for a second day when a ceasefire plan collapsed as the sides accused each other of failing to stop shooting and shelling.

Ukrainian authorities said on Monday the southern city of Mykolayiv was being shelled.

The civilian death toll from hostilities across Ukraine since Russia launched the invasion was 364, including more than 20 children, the United Nations said on Sunday, adding that hundreds were wounded. 

As anti-war protests took place around the world, Ukraine renewed its appeal to the West to toughen sanctions and also requested more weapons, including Russian-made planes.

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