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Ukraine Says Seven Humanitarian Corridors Agreed, As Russian Forces Concentrate On Southeast

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service April 05, 2022

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says seven humanitarian corridors will be open on April 5 to evacuate civilians from several hard hit areas, including the southern port cities of Mariupol and Berdyansk.

Vereshchuk said in a post on Telegram that those leaving the cities will be able to do so only via private transportation and will be able to travel to the city of Zaporizhzhya.

Other corridors will open from the city of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhya region and the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, and Hirske in the Luhansk region, she added.

"Despite the promises of their leadership, the [Russian] forces are not allowing anyone to travel into Mariupol," Vereshchuk said.

"They blocked representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Manhush," about 20 kilometers west of Mariupol, "but after negotiations, they were released last night and sent to Zaporizhzhya."

It was not immediately clear whether Russia has agreed to halt the fighting along the announced corridors.

Previous efforts by Ukraine to evacuate civilians via humanitarian corridors have largely failed as fighting along them continued even though cease-fire agreements had been reached with Russia.

Meanwhile, the eastern city of Kramatorsk has been hit hard by Russian air strikes in a sign of Moscow's shift to focus its war against Ukraine on the southeast of the country after a series of setbacks, especially around the capital, Kyiv.

One of the strikes at around 3 a.m. local time on April 5 destroyed a school in the city center, the AFP news agency reported, citing a reporter at the scene.

The strikes left a large smoldering crater about 10 meters wide next to the damaged school building, and many windows of the building were blown out in the attack, the reporter said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The strikes were the first in the city center in several weeks. Kramatorsk has largely been spared the destruction witnessed by other eastern Ukrainian cities such as Kharkiv since Russia's unprovoked invasion began on February 24.

Russia said in late March that it was going to concentrate its "main efforts" on the "liberation" of eastern areas where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Ukraine's military said Russian forces had also started to focus on seizing the cities of Popasna and Rubizhne in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

It added that access to Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, was blocked.

Russia withdrew many of its forces from the area around Kyiv in recent days after failing in its apparent bid to swiftly capture Kyiv and other major cities and topple the government.

According to one senior U.S. defense official, about two-thirds of the Russian troops around Kyiv have left and are either in Belarus or on their way there, probably to get more supplies and regroup before being deployed again.

With reporting by AFP and AP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-southeast- humanitarian-corridors/31786842.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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