Ukraine foreign ministry claims Russian forces are shelling Mariupol evacuation route

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Russian forces shelled an evacuation route for civilians trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol in violation of a ceasefire agreement on Tuesday, Ukraine foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Twitter.

“Ceasefire violated! Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from [nearby] Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol,” Nikolenko wrote on Twitter.

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“Eight trucks + 30 buses ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and to evac (evacuate) civilians to Zaporizhzhia. Pressure on Russia MUST step up to make it uphold its commitments,” he said.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties and Nikolenko gave no other details. Russia did not immediately comment on Nikolenko’s remarks.

Civilians have been trapped by fighting since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, and officials say food, water and other supplies have been running low in some cities.

Humanitarian corridors from Mariupol failed on Saturday and Sunday, with each side accusing the other of continuing to fire.

But Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday corridors had been opened to evacuate people from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol, and that Russian forces had introduced a “silent regime” from 0700 GMT, Interfax news agency reported.

“We have already started the evacuation of civilians from Sumy to Poltava [in central Ukraine], including foreign students,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a tweet.

Dmytro Zhyvytsky, the governor of the Sumy region, said in televised comments around noon (1000 GMT) that the evacuation from Sumy was continuing and that the temporary ceasefire had largely held there.

The first wave of vehicles that left the city met around 160 Russian military vehicles coming towards them but the incident ended peacefully when the civilian convoy stopped to let the Russian forces pass, he said.

Around 1,000 foreign students had already been evacuated, Zhyvytsky said, and convoys of 20-30 private cars were leaving in waves.

Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region, said more than 150 people had been evacuated from Irpin by 0730 GMT.

Flood of refugees

People trying to flee Irpin on Sunday were caught in Russian shelling, Reuters witnesses said, and a former mayor warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the area.

Authorities in the Sumy region said 21 civilians, including two children, had been killed in a Russian airstrike on a residential street in Sumy late on Monday. Reuters was unable to verify the report.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a child had died of dehydration in Mariupol.

The child’s death could not immediately be confirmed independently. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and arrest leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.” It denies targeting civilians.

Some two million refugees have already fled Ukraine to other countries, Filippo Grandi, the head of the United Nations refugee agency, said.

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