Ministry result

Russian Defense Ministry and UN officials held a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk delivers a video message on March 7. (President of Ukraine)

The Ukrainian government has criticized Russia’s unilateral announcement of evacuation routes for civilians trying to escape the conflict.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called the Russian proposal unacceptable, especially since all but one corridor leads to Russia or its close ally Belarus.

Meanwhile, an official from a humanitarian organization called the announcement “cynical and impractical, without any preparation”.

Monday’s Russian proposal does not appear to have been developed in consultation with any international organization, such as the United Nations or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Russian state news agency TASS said those organizations had been notified – but the announced routes are unlikely to be considered practical by many.

All but one of the corridors leave civilians with 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, the civilians would be moved by “air, rail and road transport to selected destinations or temporary accommodation points”.

The announcement also appears to have been presented as an ultimatum to Ukrainian authorities, just as another round of talks is about to begin.

“We call on the Ukrainian side to strictly fulfill all conditions for the creation of humanitarian corridors in the indicated directions and to ensure an organized withdrawal of civilians and foreign citizens,” the statement said, according to TASS.

Monday’s announcement follows two failed attempts over the weekend to open a corridor from the beleaguered port of Mariupol, which the ICRC has tried to facilitate.

Skepticism over the routes has grown after evacuations of civilians were halted within hours on Saturday and Sunday, with Russian forces accused of violating an agreed ceasefire.

Speaking to Today on BBC Radio 4, Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC’s director of operations, said problems remained in confirming details of any ceasefire agreement.

Stillhart said the challenge was to bring the two sides to a “concrete, achievable and specific” agreement.

He added that so far there had only been “in principle” agreements, which had immediately fallen through as they lacked clarity about routes and who can use them.

To illustrate his point, he said that some ICRC staff attempted to leave Mariupol via an agreed route on Sunday, but soon realized that “the route they were shown was in fact mined”.

Read the full report here.