Russia continued to bomb Ukrainian civilians and even reportedly planted landmines along a “human corridor” that was supposed to be designated for safe evacuation Monday – all while the Kremlin claimed it would begin several cease-fires to allow refugees to flee.
Russian officials assured Ukraine that they would clear paths in its besieged cities of Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sum to allow civilians to pass safely. But a senior Red Cross official told the BBC on Monday that agency workers trying to use a safe corridor out of Mariupol said the route had been booby-trapped with landmines.
Ukraine officials also scoffed that the Russian safe-corridor proposal was a “completely immoral’’ trick anyway — because the Kremlin’s proposed escape routes would funnel refugees into Russia or its ally Belarus, trapping Ukrainians once again.
A rep for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia’s plan “completely immoral.”
Moscow is trying to “use people’s suffering to create a television picture. This is one of the problems that is causing the humanitarian corridors to break down,” he said.
Russia has told Ukraine that it will halt its invasion “in a moment” if Ukraine agrees to give up the regions of Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rep said Monday.
Moscow wants Ukraine to cease military action in those areas while acknowledging Crimea as Russian territory and recognize the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.
The Kremlin did not say whether it would stop its invasion altogether if those demands were met or just halt it temporarily.
In the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, where a mom and her two kids fleeing violence were killed by a Russian mortar attack Sunday, people were told that if they plan to flee, they need to do it soon.
Hundreds of residents poured out of the city Monday, crossing a river by foot and leaving behind their homes that had been all but destroyed by shellings. The main bridge that they would have crossed was destroyed by their own troops to prevent Russian forces from advancing.
“There was heavy shelling in Irpin,” local resident Galya Fedorchuk told Reuters after crossing the river.
The Russians “fired at houses, people,” she said.
“A woman and a 13-year-old child died. A few people are left here. It is hard and scary. It is a war, it is fascism, it is genocide against the whole of Ukraine,” she said.
Authorities told locals such as Fedorchuk that this might be their last chance to escape the city, whose residents carried children, pets, luggage and anything else they could with them, some not even sure where they would end up.
Unlike Sunday, evacuees didn’t face shellings on Monday in Irpin, 30 percent of which is currently occupied by Russian troops.
The developments came as:
- The city of Mykolaiv, about 250 miles south of Kyiv, underwent intense fighting amid bombings. The Black Sea port of Olvia also continued to be hammered.
- A third round of peace talks between both sides ended with the Ukrainians saying some “small positive” results were achieved regarding the safety corridors, while Russia said its expectations were “not fulfilled.”
- More than 1.7 million Ukrainian citizens — mostly women and children — have fled their country into Central Europe, mainly to Poland. The European Union could see as many as 5 million refugees if the invasion continues, according to the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell.
- The Black Sea port city of Odessa is expecting to become one of Russia’s next targets, sending scores of members of its Jewish community fleeing Monday mainly to neighboring Romania.
- The US is deploying another 500 troops in the region, including in Poland, Germany, Greece and Romania.
- At least 406 Ukrainian civilians have died, including 27 children, so far, the UN said. The death toll includes 13 bodies recovered from the site of a bread factory bombed today in the Ukrainian town of Makariv outside Kyiv. The count is likely vastly underreported.
- Russia has so far damaged or destroyed 202 Ukrainian schools, 34 hospitals and more than 1,500 residential buildings, Ukraine says.
- Nearly 100 percent of Russia’s combat power — more than 170,000 troops — that Putin amassed around Ukraine’s borders with Belarus and Russia is now fighting in the country. Russia has launched 625 missile since war started Feb. 24.