Civilians flee Ukrainian city as safe corridor opens

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Civilians Flee Ukrainian City As Safe Corridor Opens Civilians Flee Ukrainian City As Safe Corridor Opens
Ukrainian refugees, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Yuras Karmanau, AP

Buses packed with people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine are on the move in one eastern city, as a new effort to evacuate civilians along safe corridors finally begins.

The route out of the eastern city of Sumy was one of five promised by Russia to offer civilians a way to escape the Russian onslaught.


Even as video posted by the Ukrainian state communications agency showed people with bags boarding buses, it was not clear how long the evacuation effort would last.

The Russian onslaught has forced two million people to flee Ukraine, UN officials said, but has trapped others inside besieged cities that are running low on food, water and medicine amid the biggest ground war in Europe since the Second World War.

Previous attempts to lead civilians to safety have crumbled under renewed Russian attacks.

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“The Ukrainian city of Sumy was given a green corridor, the first stage of evacuation began,” the state communications agency in Ukraine tweeted. Sumy is just 30 miles from the Russian border.


With the invasion well into its second week, Russian troops have made significant advances in southern Ukraine, but stalled in some other regions.

Soldiers and volunteers fortified the capital, Kyiv, with hundreds of checkpoints and barricades designed to thwart a takeover.

Shells and rockets have continued to fall on other population centres, including the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where the mayor reported heavy artillery fire.

“We can’t even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn’t stop day or night,” mayor Anatol Fedoruk said.

“Dogs are pulling apart the bodies on the city streets. It’s a nightmare.”


In the encircled southern port of Mariupol, an estimated 200,000 people – nearly half the population of 430,000 – are hoping to flee, and Red Cross officials are waiting to hear when a corridor would be established.

Russia’s coordination centre for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk both said a ceasefire was agreed to start Tuesday morning to allow some civilians to evacuate, but the two sides differed on where they said the corridors would be.

The Russian centre suggested there would be more than one corridor, but that most would lead to Russia, either directly or through Belarus. At the UN, however, the Russian ambassador suggested corridors from several cities could be opened and people could choose for themselves which direction they would take.


Women and children, fleeing from Ukraine at the train station in Przemysl, Poland (AP)

Ms Vereshchuk, meanwhile, only said that the two sides had agreed to an evacuation of civilians from the eastern city of Sumy, toward the Ukrainian city of Poltava. Those to be evacuated include foreign students from India and China, she said.

She reiterated that proposals to evacuate civilians to Russia and its ally Belarus, which was a launchpad for the invasion, are unacceptable.

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Demands for effective passageways have surged amid intensifying shelling by Russian forces. The steady bombardments, including in some of Ukraine’s most populated regions, have yielded a humanitarian crisis of diminishing food, water and medical supplies.

Through it all, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces are showing unprecedented courage.


“The problem is that for one soldier of Ukraine, we have 10 Russian soldiers, and for one Ukrainian tank, we have 50 Russian tanks,” Mr Zelensky told ABC News.

But he noted that the gap in strength was closing and that even if Russian forces “come into all our cities”, they will be met with an insurgency.

A top US official said multiple countries are discussing whether to provide the warplanes that Mr Zelensky has been pleading for.

Mariupol is short on water, food and power, and mobile phone networks are down.


A woman holding a child cries after fleeing from Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka (AP)

Shops have been looted as residents search for essential goods. Police moved through the city, advising people to remain in shelters until they heard official messages broadcast over loudspeakers to evacuate.

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Hospitals in Mariupol are facing severe shortages of antibiotics and painkillers, and doctors have performed some emergency procedures without them.

The lack of phone service left anxious citizens approaching strangers to ask if they knew relatives living in other parts of the city, and whether they were safe.


Several hundred miles west of Mariupol, Russian forces continued their offensive in Mykolaiv, opening fire on the Black Sea shipbuilding centre of a half a million people, according to Ukraine’s military.

Rescuers said they were putting out fires caused by rocket attacks in residential areas.

Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces said in a statement that Ukrainian forces are continuing defence operations in the suburbs of the city.

The general staff said “demoralised” Russian forces are engaging in looting in places they have occupied, commandeering civilian buildings like farm buildings for military equipment, and are setting up firing positions in populated areas. The claims could not be independently verified.

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A Ukrainian serviceman monitors a checkpoint from behind sandbags on a main road in Kyiv (AP)

Ukrainian defence forces were also involved in operations in the northern city of Chernihiv and the outskirts of Kyiv, the general staff said.

In Kyiv, soldiers and volunteers have built hundreds of checkpoints to protect the city of nearly four million, often using sandbags, stacked tyres and barbed wire.

Some barricades looked significant, with heavy concrete slabs and sandbags piled more than two storeys high, while others appeared more haphazard, with hundreds of books used to weigh down stacks of tyres.

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


In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with 1.4 million people, heavy shelling slammed into apartment buildings.

In the small town of Horenka, where shelling reduced one area to ashes and shards of glass, rescuers and residents picked through the ruins as chickens pecked around them.

“What are they doing?” rescue worker Vasyl Oksak asked of the Russian attackers. “There were two little kids and two elderly people living here. Come in and see what they have done.”

At The Hague, Ukraine pleaded with the International Court of Justice to order a halt to Russia’s invasion, saying Moscow is committing widespread war crimes.


An improvised path under a destroyed bridge in the town of Irpin, close to Kyiv (AP)

Russia “is resorting to tactics reminiscent of medieval siege warfare, encircling cities, cutting off escape routes and pounding the civilian population with heavy ordnance”, said Jonathan Gimblett, a member of Ukraine’s legal team.

Russia snubbed the court proceedings, leaving its seats in the Great Hall of Justice empty.


People flee Irpin (AP)

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

The fighting has sent energy prices surging worldwide and stocks plummeting, and threatens the food supply and livelihoods of people around the globe who rely on crops farmed in the fertile Black Sea region.

The UN human rights office reported 406 confirmed civilian deaths, but said the real number is much higher. The invasion has also sent 1.7 million people fleeing Ukraine.

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

“If (Russia) doesn’t want to abide by civilised rules, then they shouldn’t receive goods and services from civilisation,” he said in a video address.

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