Russia declares partial ceasefire in two cities to open humanitarian corridors for civilians
Russia's defense ministry announced a ceasefire Saturday to allow residents of two besieged cities, including the strategic port city of Mariupol, to evacuate.
"Today, March 5, from 10 am Moscow time, the Russian side declares a regime of silence and opens humanitarian corridors for the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha," it said.
The ministry clarified that the location of the humanitarian corridors and exit points had been determined in agreement with the Ukrainian authorities, according to Russian news agencies.
The announcement comes after Mariupol's mayor Vadim Boychenko said Saturday that the city was under "blockade" by Russian forces after days of "ruthless" attacks.
While laying siege to Mariupol for days, Russian forces have cut its electricity, food, water, heating, and transportation in the depths of winter, prompting comparisons to the Nazi blockade of Leningrad in World War II.
"For now, we are looking for solutions to humanitarian problems and all possible ways to get Mariupol out of the blockade," said Boychenko, calling for a ceasefire and a humanitarian corridor for food and medicine.
Mariupol, a city of about 450,000 people on the Azov Sea, is a strategic port city allowing important maritime access and its capture could see Moscow's troops coming from the annexed Crimean peninsula connect with the forces of separatist-controlled Donbas.
Volnovakha is a town of around 20,000 people situated near Ukraine's former frontline with Russian-backed separatists and around 60 kilometers (38 miles) from separatist-controlled Donetsk, a regional center.
Since President Vladimir Putin's army invaded on February 24, Russia has pummelled Ukrainian cities, killed hundreds of civilians, and assaulted Europe's largest atomic power plant.