Friday. 24.05.2024

The Russian military ordered a ceasefire in the besieged Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha so that residents can leave via humanitarian corridors, as day 10 of Moscow's invasion got under way on Saturday.

The Defence Ministry in Moscow said exit routes were coordinated with the Ukrainian side and that starting at 10 am Moscow time (0700 GMT) the military would stop its bombardment in those parts of Ukraine.

The reports in Russian media were unclear about how long the corridors would remain open, but the Ukrainians said it was until 1400 GMT.

Their establishment, if carried out, would represent a breakthrough in the war in protecting Ukrainian civilians.

Mariupol is a strategic south-eastern port city on the Sea if Azov that has been pounded by Russian artillery for days and is completely surrounded.

Mayor Vadym Boichenko has said his city of 440,000 people no longer has water, heat or electricity and is suffering from food shortages. He had expressed hope on Friday that Russia would soon agree to let civilians get out safety.

Despite coming under "relentless" attack for the past five days, Boichenko said Ukrainian troops had not allowed the Russian to enter the city proper.

Volnovakha, with a population of about 20,000, is located about 65 kilometres north of Mariupol.

The capture of Mariupol and Volnovakha would be a significant win for Moscow, as Russian troops would then begin to be able to join up with their counterparts on the Crimean Peninsula and the in Donetsk region.

Moscow had recognized the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, controlled by pro-Russian separatists, as independent states in February.

Afterwards, the leaderships of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics" had called on Russian President Vladimir Putin for help to protect them from the Ukrainian military.

'Demilitarize' the country

Putin then ordered the start of a "special military operation" on February 24, which led to the invasion of Ukraine from the north, south and east.

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that forces were continuing on their mission to "demilitarize" the country.

Ammunition depots containing Javelin anti-tank missiles had been destroyed in the northern city of Zhytomyr, he said, adding that more than 2,000 military infrastructure cites and over 700 Ukrainian army tanks have been destroyed so far in the war.

The separatist troops of the eastern 'Donetsk People's Republic' had advanced 27 kilometres further into Ukraine and had taken control of six villages there.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces said Russia is intensifying efforts to encircle the capital Kiev and the the second-largest city of Kharkiv.

Defence units in the capital of Kiev continue to repel the "enemy offensive" and inflict defeats on the attacking troops, the Ukrainians said.

A third round of talks between Ukraine and Russia is expected in Belarus this weekend, although no major breakthrough was anticipated.

Russia orders ceasefires in two besieged cities to let residents flee