The Russian Defense Ministry has declared a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine so people can leave an encircled city.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has said it is halting its offensive at 10am local time on Saturday so residents can leave the encircled Azov Sea port city of Mariupol, around 110km (68 miles) from Donetsk. Russia recognizes the city as part of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). However, it has been controlled by Ukraine since 2014.
Another humanitarian corridor was established for the nearby town of Volnovakha, also controlled by the Ukrainians.
Moscow said that safe passages had been agreed on with Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians met for a second round of peace talks in Belarus on Thursday.
Mariupol officials said civilians have until 4pm local time to leave by car or bus via three evacuation routes. The evacuation will take place “in several stages spanning several days,” officials announced.
Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko said the ceasefire will allow work to commence on the restoration of electricity and water supply, as well as cell phone service. He added that local officials will also seek to deliver food and first-aid kits.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said officials plan to evacuate more than 200,000 people from Mariupol and more than 15,000 from Volnovakha.
Mikhail Podolyak, a member of Ukraine’s negotiation team, confirmed earlier that the two sides had spoken about the possibility of temporarily ceasing hostilities in order for civilians to evacuate.
Russia attacked Ukraine last week, arguing that it was defending the DPR and the neighboring Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), which broke away from Ukraine shortly after the 2014 coup in Kiev. Moscow also said it was seeking the “demilitarization and denazification” of the country.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said the attack was entirely unprovoked and has appealed to the international community for help.