Ukraine accuses Russia of blocking aid convoy heading to Mariupol as 160 cars leave besieged city

More than 2,500 citizens in southeastern city have died, say local officials

Rory Sullivan,Arpan Rai
Monday 14 March 2022 21:01 GMT
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Mariupol maternity hospital lays in ruins after Russian airstrike

Russia prevented an aid convoy from reaching desperate civilians in the city of Mariupol on Monday, Ukraine has claimed.

On the same day, Vladimir Putin’s troops, who have encircled the city since the first week of the war, allowed at least 160 cars to leave the beleaguered port.

Since the invasion began last month, the southeastern Ukrainian city has faced the worst conditions of any major city in the country, with hundreds of thousands of civilians lacking adequate food and water.

More than 2,500 non-combatants have been killed in the city by Russia so far, according to local officials.

Despite 10 days of attempts from the Ukrainian authorities, Russia has not allowed a safe evacuation route for citizens hoping to flee their homes in Mariupol.

However, around 160 cars were able to travel out of the city on Monday, a city council representative confirmed, speaking from the city of Zaporizhzhia to the north.

“At one o’clock (1100 GMT) the Russians opened a checkpoint and those who have cars and fuel began to leave Mariupol in the direction of Zaporizhzhia,” Andrei Rempel said.

He added: “In the first two hours, 160 cars left. There are probably already many more now. The city continues to be bombed but this road is not being shelled.

“We don’t know when the first cars can get to Zaporizhzhia as there are still many Russian checkpoints that need to be passed.”

People shelter from shelling inside an entryway to an apartment building in Mariupol
People shelter from shelling inside an entryway to an apartment building in Mariupol (AP)

However, one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy’s aides later said that Russian soldiers had once more stopped vehicles attempting to bring much-needed aid to the city.

Talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are ongoing, with a fourth round of discussions held on Monday.

Afterwards, Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak, who, along with his colleagues, has been attempting to ensure the safe evacuation of Mariupol’s citizens, said the Kremlin was starting to speak “constructively”.

But he added that Moscow “still has a delusion that 19 days of violence against (Ukrainian) peaceful cities is the right strategy”.

(AP)

On Monday, the deputy Ukrainian prime minister Iryna Vereschuk said 10 “humanitarian corridors” - seven of which were in the Kyiv region and three of which were in Luhansk - would open. This did not include Mariupol.

Russia has been unable to make any decisive progress over the last 24 hours, according to the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces. This assessment was echoed by a senior US defence official, who said Russian forces were still nine miles from the centre of Kyiv.

Giving its own version of events, Russia said it was making headway and had reached five towns north of Mariupol.

A total of 636 civilians have died during Mr Putin’s war, the UN estimates, adding that the real number of victims is thought to be much higher.

Meanwhile, almost 3 million Ukrainians have crossed the border into neighbouring countries to flee the conflict.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015.

Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here.

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