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Mariupol civilians

A resident walks past a damaged building in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 28, 2022. (Photo: Victor/Xinhua via Getty Images)

After Horrific Bombardment for Weeks, Moscow Announces Mariupol Cease-Fire to Evacuate Civilians

The mayor of the embattled southern Ukrainian city said earlier this week that nearly 5,000 people including 210 children have been killed by Russian forces during the war.

Brett Wilkins

Russian officials on Wednesday said they would implement a cease-fire and open a humanitarian corridor out of the embattled Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where thousands of civilians have reportedly been killed over the past five weeks of relentless attacks.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk would be open Thursday at 10:00 am local time, Al Jazeera reports.

Some Ukrainians were skeptical of the Russian announcement. Russian forces have been accused of targeting fleeing civilians—including in previously designated humanitarian corridors they promised not to attack—and continued to bombard the outskirts of the capital Kyiv and other cities Wednesday after pledging to scale back attacks.

The cease-fire announcement came after Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded Mariupol surrender as a precondition for an end to shelling of the besieged city of more than 440,000 inhabitants. There has been no such surrender.

Mariupol has suffered widespread destruction during the more than monthlong Russian onslaught. Ukrainian officials say food and water are in short supply and that Russian forces are deliberately blocking humanitarian aid and capturing residents who attempt to escape the city. Thousands of Mariupol residents have reportedly been forcibly transferred to Russia, where they face indefinite detention and interrogation.

On Monday, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said that nearly 5,000 people including 210 children have died in the city, where some 160,000 civilians remain trapped. The Mariupol City Council said last week that around 300 civilians were killed in a Russian airstrike targeting a drama theater sheltering up to 1,300 people and clearly marked with the word "children."

It is still unclear how many people were killed or injured in a March 20 Russian attack on Mariupol's Art School No. 12, where 400 women, children, and elders were reportedly sheltering.

Boichenko's office said Monday that 40% of the buildings in the port city have been completely destroyed, and 90% have been damaged.

Global human rights advocates have been calling for a cease-fire not just in Mariupol but throughout Ukraine as peace talks resumed this week in Turkey.

"A cessation of hostilities will allow essential humanitarian aid to be delivered, and enable civilians to move around safely," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday. "It will save lives, prevent suffering, and protect civilians."

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