Vladimir Putin was accused of toying with desperate refugees by offering them safe passage out of besieged cities — to Russia and its ally Belarus.
Ukraine’s government slammed the ‘immoral’ offer and said the Russian leader was ‘using people’s suffering to create a television picture’, adding: ‘They should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine.’
The corridor from Kyiv is thought to lead to Belarus while those in Kharkiv will only be able to flee to Russia. Paths from Mariupol and Sumy will go both to Ukrainian cities and Russia.
President Volodymyr Zelensky urged more sanctions as Poland rejected plans to give Ukraine fighter jets.
‘We need to forget about commerce and business, we need to fight against evil that wants to destroy humanity itself,’ he said yesterday.
‘If they do not want to comply with civilised rules, they should not receive goods and services from civilisation either. Let the war feed them.’
Few attempted to escape besieged cities yesterday after weekend ceasefires had collapsed in minutes. Some 2,000 left Irpin under a destroyed bridge, but another 4,000 were stuck near Kyiv.
The Red Cross said it intended to lead evacuees along an agreed corridor out of Mariupol on Sunday — but ‘the road indicated to them was mined’.
An adviser to Mr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, said there were ‘small positive shifts’ after the sides met yesterday.
Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said he expected the corridors to start functioning today.
Thirteen people died when a shell hit a Kyiv bakery yesterday, and Ukraine said 202 schools, 34 hospitals and 1,500 residential buildings had been hit or destroyed.
‘The Russian army doesn’t know how to fight other armies but it’s good at killing civilians,’ said an aide to Mr Zelensky.
A Russian patrol boat was hit by a rocket as fears grew of an assault on port city Odessa. Ukraine also said that it had destroyed 30 helicopters in Kherson and retook Chuhuiv.
Russia said attacks would ‘stop in a moment’ if Ukraine dropped its bid to join Nato and the EU, demilitarised and recognised Donetsk and Luhansk as independent. The Kremlin urged it to ‘react in a suitable way’.
But Ukraine was defiant as it accused Russia at the Hague of ‘medieval siege warfare’.
The nations’ foreign ministers are due to meet on Thursday.
‘This is another ultimatum and we’re not prepared for ultimatums,’ said Mr Zelensky, adding he had possible solutions but Mr Putin must stop living in an ‘informational bubble’.
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