A day earlier, hundreds of thousands of civilians trying to escape had to seek shelter from what Ukrainian officials described as Russian shelling in central, northern and southern cities.
Ahead of a third round of talks scheduled for Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that a ceasefire would begin in the morning and open safe passages for civilians from the capital Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol and the cities of Kharkiv and Sumy. However, some of the evacuation routes would take civilians to Russia or its ally Belarus – unlikely destinations for many Ukrainians who would prefer to reach countries on the western and southern borders.
A senior Ukrainian official rejected these proposals.
It was not immediately clear if fighting would cease beyond the named areas or when the truce would end. Hopes were slim that the latest round of talks would yield any breakthroughs.
Until well into the second week of the war, Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country was hampered by fierce resistance. Their troops have made significant advances in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of their efforts have stalled, including a huge military convoy that has been nearly motionless north of Kyiv for days.
The fighting has soared global energy prices, eroded supplies and is threatening the food and livelihoods of people around the world who depend on farmland in the Black Sea region.
MAP: Locations of known Russian military strikes and ground attacks
The death toll from the fighting remains unclear. The UN says it has only confirmed a few hundred civilian deaths but also warned the number is a large undercount. Kharkiv region police said Monday that 209 people died there alone – 133 of them civilians.
The Russian invasion has also forced 1.5 million people to flee the country, creating what the head of the UN refugee agency called “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II”.
But many others are trapped in shelled cities. Food, water, medicine and nearly all other supplies were desperately short in the southern port city of Mariupol, from which an estimated 200,000 people are trying to flee, where a previous ceasefire is failing. Russia and Ukraine have shared the blame for the failure.
The Russian task force said the new humanitarian corridors pledge was announced at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday. Macron’s office said he had called for a broader end to military operations in Ukraine and protection of civilians.
Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Irina Vereshchuk called the proposed evacuation routes to Russia and Belarus “unacceptable”. Belarus is a key Putin ally and served as a launch pad for the invasion.
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The Ukrainian government is proposing eight humanitarian corridors, including from Mariupol, that would allow civilians to travel to Ukraine’s western regions where there is no Russian shelling.
“Providing evacuation routes into the arms of the country that is destroying yours is nonsense,” said UK Europe Secretary James Cleverly.
The Russian proposal was reminiscent of similar ones in Syria. In 2016, a joint Russian and Syrian proposal to set up humanitarian corridors out of besieged, opposition-held East Aleppo was heavily criticized on humanitarian grounds. Human rights activists said the tactic, combined with brutal sieges, effectively gave residents the choice of either fleeing into the arms of their attackers or dying under bombardment.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their offensive and opened fire on the town of Mykolaiv, 480 kilometers (300 miles) south of the capital, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. Rescuers said they were putting out fires in residential areas caused by rocket attacks.
Emergency officials in the Kharkiv region said overnight shelling killed at least eight people and destroyed residential buildings, medical and educational facilities, and administrative buildings.
Shelling also continued in the Kyiv suburbs, including Irpin, which has been cut off from electricity, water and heating for three days.
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“Russia continues to conduct missile, bombing and artillery strikes on cities and settlements of Ukraine,” the General Staff said.
The General Staff also repeated earlier Ukrainian accusations that the Russians had attacked humanitarian corridors. The statement also accused Russian forces of taking women and children hostage and planting weapons in residential areas of cities – without elaborating or providing any evidence.
“Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only build bloody corridors,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday. “Today a family was killed in Irpin. Husband, wife and two children. Right on the street. Like a shooting range.”
Putin previously said Moscow’s attacks could be halted “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities.” As he often did, Putin blamed Ukraine for the war and told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday that Kyiv must cease all hostilities and meet “the known demands of Russia”.
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Putin launched his invasion with a series of false accusations against Kyiv, including that it was being led by neo-Nazis intent on undermining Russia with nuclear weapons development.
As the Russian attacks intensified, a brief respite from the fighting at Mariupol collapsed. Heavy artillery hit residential areas in other major cities, local officials reported.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brains of Russians decide when and at whom to start shooting,” Ukraine’s Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko told Telegram.
On Forgiveness Sunday, known in Orthodox Christianity as Forgiveness Sunday, Zelenskyi said Ukraine will never forgive the shelling of its homes, the killing of unarmed people and the destruction of its infrastructure.
“And God will not forgive today or tomorrow – ever. And instead of a day of forgiveness, there will be a day of judgment. I’m sure of it,” he said in a video speech.
His adviser Oleksiy Arestovich described a “catastrophic” situation in the Kiev suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, where efforts to evacuate residents failed on Sunday. According to Mayor Oleksander Markyshin, about eight civilians were killed by Russian shelling in Irpin.
Video footage showed a grenade hitting a city street not far from a bridge used by people fleeing the fighting.
British military likened Russia’s tactics to Moscow’s in Chechnya and Syria, where surrounded cities were pulverized by airstrikes and artillery.
“This is likely an attempt to break Ukrainian morale,” the UK MoD said.
The handful of residents who managed to flee Mariupol before the humanitarian corridor closed said the city of 430,000 was devastated.
“We’ve seen everything: houses are burning, everyone is sitting in basements,” says Jelena Zamay, who fled to one of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists. “No communications, no water, no gas, no light, no water. There was nothing.”
Russia has made significant advances in southern Ukraine as it seeks to block access to the Sea of Azov. The capture of Mariupol could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, which most other countries considered illegal.
But much of the Russian advance has stalled, including a huge military convoy north of Kyiv.
A senior US defense official said Sunday that the US believes about 95% of Russia’s forces stationed around Ukraine are now in the country. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russian forces are continuing to advance to isolate Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv but are encountering strong Ukrainian resistance.
The West has largely backed Ukraine, offered aid and arms supplies, and hit Russia with massive sanctions. But no NATO troops were sent to Ukraine.
Zelenskyy has criticized Western leaders for not responding more forcefully to Russia. He reiterated a call for foreign forces to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something NATO has so far ruled out over fears such action would lead to a far larger war.
Zelenskyy also called on the United States and NATO countries to send more fighter jets to Ukraine and to call for more sanctions against Russia.
Russia has become increasingly isolated in the days since the invasion began, as sanctions forced dozens of multinational companies to halt or limit their work in the country and Moscow dramatically curtailed independent reporting of the conflict. The ruble has fallen in value and Russia’s extensive trade ties with the West have all but been severed.
Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
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https://abc13.com/russia-ukraine-war-russian-ceasefire-vladimir-putin/11628287/ Russia-Ukraine war news live: Russia announces ceasefire for evacuations amid heavy shelling