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Ukraine and Russia agree on humanitarian corridors

March 3, 2022

Negotiators have agreed to set up humanitarian corridors in parts of Ukraine badly hit by fighting. Both sides say the understanding involves a temporary cease-fire to allow the evacuation of citizens.

Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov, left, the Head of the Ukrainian Servant of the People faction Davyd Arakhamia, second left, Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podoliak, third left, Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee, fourth right, Russian Presidential Aide and the head of the Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky, third right behind Fomin, Deputy Minister of Defense Alexander Fomin, second right, and Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko, greet each other prior to the Russian-Ukrainian talks in the Belavezhskaya Pushcha National Park, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, northward from Brest, Belarus
It was the second round of peace talks, with the Ukrainian side seeking a wider cease-fireImage: picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Both Kyiv's and Moscow's delegation to cease-fire talks confirmed on Thursday they had reached an understanding on creating humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

The deal is the first of any kind to be forged between the two since Russia invaded Ukraine a week ago.

What did the sides say?

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that it had not been possible to agree a general cease-fire and armistice — Ukraine's first two points on the agenda — but that some progess had been made.

The sides, he said, envisaged a possible temporary cessation of hostilities in certain places to allow the evacuation of civilians.

"That is, not everywhere, but only in those places where the humanitarian corridors themselves will be located, it will be possible to cease fire for the duration of the evacuation," he said.

"Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have the results it needs yet," Podolyak tweeted.

The session of talks being held in Belarus, which allowed Russia to use its territory to invade its southern neighbor, is the second to be held. A third round is expected to take place next week.

Russia's main negotiator, and former culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky confirmed that both sides had agreed to create a way out for civilians.

What do Russians think of Putin's war?

"The main question that we decided on today was the issue of saving people, civilians, who are in the zone of military clashes," Medinsky said. 

"Russia calls on civilians who find themselves in this situation, if military actions continue, to use these humanitarian corridors," he said.

The agreements are to be "implemented in the near future," Russian nationalist lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said.

Where is the fighting heaviest?

Russia's military now says it controls Kherson, with local Ukrainian officials confirming they have taken the Black Sea port of 280,000 people.

There is also heavy fighting outside the strategic port of Mariupol, also part of the battle in southern Ukraine. The town's city council claims civilian infrastructure is being targeted, and has urged the creation of a humanitarian corridor.

Several explosions on Thursday morning were heard in the capital, Kyiv, outside which a 40-mile-long (64-kilometer-long) convoy of tanks and other vehicles remains stalled.

Among the other cities being shelled by Russian forces and citing high civilian casualties is the country's second-biggest city, Kharkiv.

The UN human rights office says at least 227 civilians have been killed and another 525 wounded in Ukraine since Russia launched its attack on February 24.

Berlin welcomes refugees from Ukraine

The agency has acknowledged that figure is a vast undercount. Ukraine's State Emergency Service says more than 2,000 civilians have already died.

The United Nations says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since the assault started, with the UN refugee agency predicting up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine.

rc/rt (AFP dpa, Reuters, AP)