Putin’s deal is simple but direct: he will stop the shelling of the beleaguered Ukrainian city of Mariupol only after they surrender to Russian forces.

Ukrainian citizens of the city of Mariupol run for their lives during a Russian shelling. Image credit: @ukrainenewstop/Twitter

Putin Talks with French President Macron

According to the Kremlin, the Russian strongman made this statement during an hour-long phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday night.

French officials commented that Putin entertained the idea of allowing citizens to evacuate the city in what they called a “catastrophic situation.” But, seeing that he has ordered the shelling of Kyiv once again after saying yesterday that he would ease off, Putin has proven yet again that he is not a man of his word, and I’m not holding my breath.

The French government issued an official statement regarding the situation:

“Civilian populations must be protected and must leave the city if they wish to. They must have access to food, aid, water, and the medicines they need. This very degraded humanitarian situation is linked to the siege of the city by the Russian armed forces.”

This announcement comes shortly after satellite photos show the devastation caused by recent shelling. Satellite images taken by the Earth observation company Maxar show additional damage to residential areas. They also illustrate Russian artillery in firing positions on the outskirts of Mariupol.

Vadym Boychenko, mayor of Mariupol, has claimed that up to 5,000 civilians have been killed — including 210 children. In addition, he estimates that approximately 40% of the residential structures in his city are uninhabitable.

This satellite image was taken on March 19th and shows burning apartment buildings in northeastern Mariupol, Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Russian Defense Ministry Announces Ceasefire

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that they would cease fire on Mariupol on March 31st, beginning at 10:00 AM local time to allow time for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians and foreign nationals from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia.

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, has skeptically stated on Telegram that this is only a “manipulation.”
Screenshot from Telegram.

Translation of Ukrainian text to English:

“In the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation stated that from March 10:00 31, they declare “the regime of silence” and open an additional humanitarian corridor for evacuation of civilians and foreign citizens from Mariupol to Zaporozhye.

Deputy Prime Minister Vereshchuk called this “another manipulation” in a comment to the public, and stressed that only the Ukrainian side’s message with a list of routes of humanitarian corridors is valid.”

Vereshchuk stressed that only the reports of the Ukrainian side with a list of routes of humanitarian corridors are valid. Ukrinform, a Ukrainian multimedia broadcasting forum, reported that on March 30th, 1,530 people were safely evacuated to Zaporizhzhia.

Previous attempts at a ceasefire in Mariupol have failed due to allegations of bad faith from both sides. In addition, Russia has been accused of forcibly relocating thousands of Ukrainian citizens to Russia or Russian-controlled areas.

The Red Cross Is Preparing To Help

The Russian ministry suggested that for the civilian evacuations to succeed, they should be carried out with the direct participation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Ewan Watson, a spokesman for the ICRC, has stated that they have teams of personnel on their way to Mariupol. These teams are loaded with aid supplies and are ready to help with the evacuation of civilians. First, however, he notes that both sides must agree on the exact terms of the operation, planned to begin Friday. Watson added that “tens of thousands of lives” depend on its success.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal noted today that he has been working with the ICRC on the return of Ukrainians who have been “abducted or forcibly relocated” to Russia.

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