Ukraine, Russia Exchange Accusations after Mariupol Evacuation Delay

Photo credit: AFP

The officials in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol have delayed the announced evacuation of the civilian population, accusing Moscow’s troops of breaking a ceasefire and continuing the shelling both of Mariupol itself and its environs.

In a televised broadcast, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych pointed out that Russian troops in certain areas are not observing the agreed ceasefire.

City officials said in a statement on social media that the evacuation of the civilian population from Mariupol, a southern city of about 450,000 people on the Azov Sea which is surrounded by Russian forces, has been postponed for security reasons.

They asked all Mariupol residents to disperse and head to places where they can shelter, urging them to wait for additional information about the evacuation that will be posted soon.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry said no one made use of two humanitarian corridors, accusing Ukrainian nationalists of thwarting humanitarian corridors set up near Ukraine’s cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha and preventing civilians from leaving.

According to the ministry’s statement, which contrasted starkly with Ukrainian officials’ comments, the Russian forces had come under fire during the partial ceasefire after it had set up the humanitarian corridors.

The evacuation of Mariupol was scheduled to begin at 0900 GMT after Russian forces agreed to a temporary ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the fighting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said on Saturday that Moscow was checking information that Ukrainian authorities may not be allowing civilians to be evacuated from Mariupol.

Lavrov also accused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of trying to provoke a conflict between Russia and NATO after being upset about the alliance’s refusal to meddle in the conflict.

Pointing out that Zelensky’s militaristic frenzy indicates he does not want the talks with Moscow, the top Russian diplomat expressed Russia’s hopes that Zelensky’s mood changes won’t complicate the situation.

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