Ukraine has said that a safe route was set up on Tuesday for residents of the eastern city of Sumy, near the Russian border. Russia launched a military campaign against its neighbor late last month.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the evacuation route from Sumy to the Ukrainian city of Poltava was agreed on with the Russian military. She cited a letter supposedly sent by the Russian Defense Ministry to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The first party of civilians is scheduled to start moving at 10am local time, Vereshchuk said.
Vereshchuk later added that another safe passage was opened from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. She said 30 buses have left for Mariupol to pick up civilians wishing to leave, along with a convoy of trucks carrying food, water and medicine.
The deputy PM, however, accused Russia of planning to interfere with the process by “forcing” people to take a different and “unsafe” route. “We call on the Russian side to refrain from manipulations and abide by the promise reflected in the document.”
Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said that Moscow will maintain a ceasefire for evacuation routes from Kiev, Chernihiv, Kharkov, Sumy, and Mariupol.
On Monday, Moscow proposed establishing evacuation routes from Kiev, Kharkov, Sumy, and Mariupol. Ukraine rejected the plan, saying it was “absurd and cynical” to have Ukrainian civilians evacuated to Russia, as Moscow suggested.
Two attempts to set up safe passage from Mariupol over the weekend also failed, with both sides blaming each other. The port city on the Azov Sea coast is surrounded by forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic, backed by Russian troops. Ukraine accused Russia of shelling the city, while Moscow claimed that Ukrainian “nationalists” were using locals as “a human shield,” preventing them from leaving.