Russia hangs the prospect of safe corridors; Ukraine is skeptical

LIONS – Safe corridors designed to help Ukrainian civilians avoid Russian pressure could open on Tuesday, Kremlin officials said, although Ukrainian leaders were skeptical as previous evacuation efforts collapsed last weekend amid repeated attacks.

With the invasion already in the second week, Russian troops made significant progress in southern Ukraine, but halted in some other regions. Soldiers and volunteers fortified the capital Kyiv with hundreds of checkpoints and barricades designed to prevent the seizure of power. Constant rain of shells and missiles fell on other settlements, including the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where the mayor reported heavy artillery fire.

“We can’t even collect the bodies, because the shelling with heavy weapons does not stop day or night,” said Mayor Anatoly Fedaruk. “Dogs are dismantling bodies on the streets of the city. It’s a nightmare. “

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In one of the most desperate cities, surrounded by the southern port of Mariupol, about 200,000 people – almost half the population of 430,000 – hoped to flee, and the Red Cross waited for a corridor to be built.

Russia’s chief negotiator said he expects the corridors to be used on Tuesday. Russia’s ambassador to the UN predicted a potential ceasefire in the morning and apparently suggested that humanitarian routes from Kyiv and other cities could give people a choice of where they want to go – a change from previous proposals that offered only destinations in Russia. or Belarus.

But doubts were growing, fueled by the failure of previous attempts to bring civilians to safety amid Europe’s biggest land war since World War II. The office of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky did not comment on the latest Russian proposal, saying only that Moscow’s plans can be trusted only if a safe evacuation begins.

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Amid intensified shelling by Russian troops, demands for effective passages have grown. The constant bombing, including in some of Ukraine’s most populous regions, has led to a humanitarian crisis with declining supplies of food, water and medicine.

In all this, Zelensky said that the Ukrainian forces are showing unprecedented courage.

“The problem is that we have 10 Russian soldiers per Ukrainian soldier and 50 Russian tanks per one Ukrainian tank,” Zelensky told ABC News in an interview Monday night. But he noted that the gap is narrowing and that even if Russian troops “enter all our cities,” they will face an uprising.

A senior U.S. official said several countries were discussing whether to provide the military planes Zelensky had requested.

Mariupol lacked water, food and electricity, and mobile networks were down. Shops were looted when residents were looking for essentials. Police moved around the city, told people to remain in storage, until they hear officials on loudspeakers about evacuation.

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Mariupol hospitals are facing a serious shortage of antibiotics and painkillers, and some emergency procedures doctors did without them.

The lack of telephone communication forced concerned citizens to turn to strangers to ask if they knew relatives living in other parts of the city and if they were safe.

In Kyiv, soldiers and volunteers built hundreds of checkpoints to protect the nearly 4 million-strong city, often using sandbags, folded tires and spiked ropes. Some barricades looked significant, with heavy concrete slabs and sandbags more than two stories high, while others looked more casual, with hundreds of books used to weigh down stacks of tires.

“Every house, every street, every checkpoint, if necessary, we will fight to the death,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city with a population of 1.4 million, heavy shelling shelled apartment buildings.

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“I think we had the fourth floor below us,” said Dmitry Sedarenko from his Kharkov hospital bed. “Immediately everything started to burn and fall apart.” When the floor collapsed beneath him, he crawled across the third floor, past the bodies of some of his neighbors.

In the town of Gorenka, where as a result of the shelling one area turned to ashes and shards of glass, rescuers and residents searched the ruins while chickens were pecking around them.

“What are they doing?” Vasily Oksak, the rescuer, asked the Russian attackers. “Two young people and two old people lived here. Come on in, take a look and enjoy yourself! ”

In the south, Russian troops also continued the offensive in Mykolaiv, opening fire on the Black Sea shipbuilding center with a population of half a million, according to the Ukrainian military. Rescuers said they were putting out fires caused by rocket fire in residential areas.

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In The Hague (Netherlands), Ukraine has appealed to the International Court of Justice to stop Russia’s invasion, saying Moscow is committing widespread war crimes.

“Russia is resorting to tactics reminiscent of medieval siege war, surrounding cities, cutting off escape routes and killing civilians with heavy munitions,” said Jonathan Gimblet, a member of Ukraine’s legal team.

Russia has dropped the lawsuit, leaving its seats in the Great Hall of Justice empty.

Efforts to organize a safe passage for civilians last weekend failed amid prolonged Russian shelling. Ahead of talks Monday, Russia announced a new plan, saying civilians would be allowed to leave Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy.

But many evacuation routes were directed towards Russia or its ally Belarus, which served as a launching pad for the invasion. Ukraine has instead proposed eight routes that allow civilians to travel to the western regions of the country where there is no shelling.

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Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, later told the UN Security Council that Russia would cease fire on Tuesday morning and suggested that humanitarian leaders from Kyiv, Mariupol, Sumy and Chernihiv could allow people to choose where they wanted. seek security.

The head of the UN humanitarian organization, Deputy Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, addressed the Security Council and urged people to go “in the direction they choose.”

The battle for Mariupol is crucial because its capture could allow Moscow to create a land corridor to Crimea that Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The fighting has led to rising energy prices around the world and a sharp drop in stocks, as well as threatening the food and livelihoods of people around the world who are counting on crops in the fertile Black Sea region.

The UN Office for Human Rights reported 406 confirmed civilian deaths, but said the real number was much higher. The invasion also sent 1.7 million people who fled Ukraine.

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On Monday, Moscow reiterated a number of demands to stop the invasion, including Ukraine’s recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and the recognition of independent eastern regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatist militants. He also insisted that Ukraine change its constitution to ensure that it does not join international bodies such as NATO and the EU. Ukraine has already rejected these demands.

Zelensky called for more punitive measures against Russia, including a global boycott of its oil exports, which is key to its economy.

“If (Russia) does not want to follow civilized rules, they should not receive goods and services from civilization,” he said in a video message.

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Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the coverage of the Ukrainian crisis in the AP on /hub/russia-ukraine

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