Another attempt at evacuating the citizens of Ukraine’s strategic Mariupol port city will be made today at 12pm local time, the city council announced on Sunday.
An earlier evacuation attempt was announced by Russia on Saturday for the 400,000 residents of the port which later had to be abandoned after reports of shelling emerged, leading to a subsequent trading of accusations between the two countries.
The local council had told residents to return to their shelters because Russian troops were not respecting the temporary ceasefire.
Today’s attempt will begin at 12pm local time (1000 GMT) and last till 9pm (1900 GMT), the city council said.
Mariupol city officials said in a statement that the second ceasefire was agreed upon by Russian troops, reported AFP.
City mayor Vadym Boichenko, in an interview on Saturday, voiced troubles faced by Mariupol’s citizens, who have been cut off from the rest of the world after the invasion started.
“They’re destroying us. They’ve been working methodically to make sure the city is blockaded,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters from a basement that is his team’s temporary headquarters.
“They will not even give us an opportunity to count the wounded and the killed because the shelling does not stop,” he added.
Serhiy Orlov, Mariupol’s deputy mayor, had said that there was continuous shelling along the humanitarian corridor that was established on Saturday.
“It’s not safe to go by this road because of these fights,” he said.
The port city is strategically significant for Russia because it neighbours the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, that are controlled by Russia-backed rebels.
It is also near Crimea, which Russia had annexed in 2014 in a move that is not internationally recognised. Capturing the port city could, thus, allow separatist rebels to join forces with troops in Crimea.
The UK accused Russia on Saturday of using the ceasefire to attempt reshuffle its military for a renewed assault on Ukraine.
The country’s intelligence update had said the brief pause “was likely an attempt to deflect international condemnation while resetting its forces for renewed offensive activity”.
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