Possible ceasefire as Ukraine and Russia agree to evacuate civilians

Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement on Thursday evening on the joint provision of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians as the second round of negotiations between the parties continues. The agreement also includes a temporary ceasefire during evacuations.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the parties had discussed humanitarian corridors and agreed to talk again.

“To our great regret, we did not achieve the results we expected,” Podolyak said.

Previously, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to “stop this war”, stressing the need for the two leaders to talk to each other without preconditions.

Moscow and kyiv began a second round of talks in western Belarus earlier in the day, just hours after Putin reiterated his country’s demands in a phone conversation with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

The talks are taking place in western Belarus, with the Russian delegation led by presidential adviser Vladimir Medinsky and its Ukrainian counterpart led by David Arachamija, the leader of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s ruling party.

The two parties had agreed on the region of Brest, in western Belarus, as the place for the talks and the Russian army had planned a “security corridor” to allow the passage of the Ukrainian delegation.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has urged Russia to declare a ceasefire in the hard-hit eastern regions of Kharkiv and Sumy to allow civilians to move to safety. Meanwhile, the United Nations has also warned that more than 10 million people could leave their homes due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The first negotiations on Monday at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border did not yield any tangible results. Russian attacks continued to hit Ukraine and several explosions were recorded in Kyiv early Thursday, the eighth day of the invasion, triggering air raid sirens.

In a phone call with Macron, Putin reiterated Russia’s call for the demilitarization of Ukraine, as well as its inability to join the NATO military alliance.

At the same time, the Kremlin threatened: “Attempts to buy time by dragging out the negotiations will only lead to additional demands on kyiv in our negotiating position.”

Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists “tightened their circle” around the strategically important city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, a defense ministry spokesman in Moscow said on Thursday.

Igor Konashenkov claimed that the forces had taken control of three other communities in the region surrounding Mariupol, according to Russian news agencies. They also reportedly took control of the town of Balakleya, southeast of the city of Kharkiv.

These claims could not be independently verified.

The day before, the inhabitants of Mariupol had had the possibility of heading east towards the areas controlled by the separatists.

Konashenkov again said Russia was “taking steps to ensure the safety of civilians”, despite growing reports of missile strikes on urban residential areas across Ukraine.

The defense official said civilians could leave the besieged village of Borodyanka “through a specially designated corridor”. The offer is seen as a harbinger of a major Russian attack.

There is an airfield near Borodyanka.

According to the Russians, 62 Ukrainian planes, 53 drones and more than 600 tanks and armored vehicles have been destroyed since the start of the invasion last week, along with a total of 1,612 military objects.

Konashenkov gave no information about the losses suffered by the Russian side. On Wednesday, Moscow said 498 Russian soldiers had been killed. kyiv claims that Russian losses are much higher.

The news comes days after Putin ordered the country’s deterrent weapons to be put on special alert.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Western countries’ alarm about a possible nuclear escalation, calling it “alarmist”.

“Everyone knows that a Third World War can only be nuclear,” Lavrov said. “I assure you that we will not allow provocations that cause us to lose our balance,” he warned.

Also on Thursday, Germany’s economy ministry approved the delivery of 2,700 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, a sea change after a long ban on arms exports to Ukraine.

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