The Ukrainian government has slammed Russia’s unilateral announcement of evacuation routes for civilians trying to escape the conflict.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk described the Russian proposal as unacceptable, particularly as all but one of the corridors leads to Russia or close ally Belarus.
Meanwhile, an official with one humanitarian organization described the announcement as “cynical as well as impractical, without any preparation.”
The Russian proposal on Monday appears not to have been worked out in consultation with any international organization, such as the United Nations or International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Russian state news agency TASS did say that these organizations had been notified — but the routes announced are unlikely to be seen as practical by many.
All but one of the corridors leaves civilians in an uncertain future in Russia or Belarus, while several of the routes would pass through areas of active conflict. TASS said that once in Russia, civilians would be moved by “air, rail and road transport to selected destinations or temporary accommodation points.”
The announcement also seems to have been framed as an ultimatum to the Ukrainian authorities, just as another round of talks is due to get underway.
“We demand from the Ukrainian side to strictly fulfill all the conditions for the creation of humanitarian corridors in the listed directions and to ensure an organized withdrawal of civilians and foreign citizens,” the announcement said, according to TASS.
Monday’s announcement followed two failed attempts over the weekend to open a corridor from the besieged port of Mariupol, which the ICRC tried to facilitate.
Skepticism towards the routes has grown after evacuations of civilians were paused within hours on both Saturday and Sunday, with Russian forces accused of violating an agreed ceasefire.
Speaking with BBC Radio 4’s Today, Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the ICRC, said problems remained in confirming the details of any ceasefire agreement.
Stillhart said the challenge was to get the two parties to an agreement that is “concrete, actionable and precise.”
He added that so far there had only been agreements “in principle”, which had immediately broken down because they lacked precision, regarding routes and who can use them.
Illustrating his point, he said some ICRC staff had tried to get out of Mariupol along an agreed route on Sunday, but soon realized “the road indicated to them was actually mined.”