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Refugee Corridors in Ukraine lead to Russia and Belarus, Kyiv Says

Russia corridor
Russia proposed several new refugee corridors out of embattled Ukraine – one of which goes straight to Russia. Credit: Video screenshot

Several new refugee corridors in Ukraine that are supposed to allow people to escape the fighting actually lead to Russia and Belarus, Kyiv says. The Ukrainian deputy Prime Minister called a new proposed cease fire agreement that calls for the creation of the corridors “unacceptable” while even humanitarian organizations branded the corridors “cynical.”

More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have now fled their country after the Russian onslaught that began more than one week ago, as cities are shelled and civilian targets come under fire from the Russian forces.

Over the weekend, the proposed Mariupol evacuation corridor was also targeted by Russian fire, leading it to be abandoned. The besieged city of 400,000 people has no water, electricity, heat or sewer service as Russia tries to break its residents’ will to resist.

Refugee corridor plan part of “cynical” Russian ploy — humanitarian organization

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk described the new Russian proposal for yet more supposed corridors as unacceptable, since all but one of the pathways leads to Russia or its ally Belarus, through which Russia passed its tanks and other war materiel in the lead up to the invasion.

An official from one humanitarian organization described Russia’s announcement of the new corridors as “cynical as well as impractical, without any preparation.”

Related: Russia gives conditions for ceasefire in Ukraine

In a video address on Saturday, the Deputy Prime Minister stated ” At 11:45, the Russian Federation started shelling Volnovaka with heavy weapons” despite the agreement that the two corridors getting people out of Mariupol and Volnovakha would be safe from 9 AM onward.

Monday’s Russian proposal appears not to have been arrived at in consultation with any international organization, as is normally the case, such as the United Nations or International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), according to a report from CNN.

Although the Russian state news agency TASS alleged that these organizations had indeed been notified, the routes are extremely problematic to say the least.

One of the corridors would lead Ukrainians straight to Russia — the country that is attacking their own — or its satellite Belarus; several routes would mean that the escaping people would have to pass through areas that are currently under attack. TASS stated that once the Ukrainians came to Russia, they would be transferred by “air, rail and road transport to selected destinations or temporary accommodation points.”

This unfathomable arrangement appears to have been given as an ultimatum to Ukraine, just as a further round of talks between the two sides is set to start.

TASS reports that the announcement stated “We demand from the Ukrainian side to strictly fulfill all the conditions for the creation of humanitarian corridors in the listed directions and to ensure an organized withdrawal of civilians and foreign citizens.”

The two failed attempts to open a corridor from the historically Greek port city of Mariupol, in which the ICRC attempted to effect the transport of civilians to safe areas, collapsed after Russian shelling halted the effort.

Russia fires on refugee corridors over the weekend

Russian forces were accused of violating the agreed-upon ceasefire after both Saturday’s and Sunday’s efforts to move people out of Mariupol after just a few hours of operation.

Dominik Stillhart, the director of operations for the ICRC, told interviewers on BBC Radio 4’s Today, that problems always arise in confirming the details of any ceasefire plan.

He explained that the idea was to get the two parties to come to an agreement that is “concrete, actionable and precise.”

However, so far, he stated, there had only been agreements “in principle,” which had immediately broken down because they lacked any precise information regarding the exact routes and who can utilize them during evacuations.

Incredibly, he said some ICRC staff had tried to escape from Mariupol along the previously-agreed-upon route on Sunday, but saw that “the road indicated to them was actually mined.”

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