Russia on Wednesday accused Kiev forces of blocking the evacuation through a “humanitarian corridor” of civilians from a factory in Severodonetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine stormed by the Russian army.
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“The Russian side has provided a humanitarian corridor to allow the evacuation of civilians from the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk. Despite all these measures (…) the Kiev authorities cynically missed the humanitarian operation,” the Russian Defense Ministry accused in a press release.
On Tuesday, Russia said it would set up a “humanitarian corridor” on Wednesday from 5:00 GMT to 17:00 GMT to allow civilians who have taken refuge at the Azot factory to travel from Severodonetsk towards areas controlled by Moscow’s forces to leave north.
However, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the Ukrainian armed forces of “violating the ceasefire several times” and “using the humanitarian pause to move to more advantageous (combat) positions”.
It has not been possible to independently verify these claims.
Severodonetsk, a strategic city in eastern Ukraine, has been the scene of violent clashes between Ukraine’s army and Moscow’s forces and their pro-Russian separatist allies for several weeks.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, several hundred people are currently fleeing to the large Azot chemical plant, which they say is constantly being bombed.
To a lesser extent, this situation is reminiscent of the situation at the large Azovstal metallurgical complex in Mariupol, a major port city in the south-east, which fell into Russian hands in May after a siege of several weeks.
Hundreds of civilians had taken refuge in underground galleries in Azovstal before finding themselves there alongside Ukrainian fighters in extremely difficult conditions as bombs rained nonstop.
Russia had repeatedly announced the establishment of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but several agreements had fallen through, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of breaking them.