On Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross described the situation in Mariupol as “heartbreaking” as the evacuation of residents has been postponed, calling on the parties to protect civilians in Ukraine whether there is a humanitarian corridor or not.
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“We understand that operations for safe passage from Mariupol and Volnovaka will not start today. We continue to work with the parties regarding the safe passage of civilians from the various towns affected by the conflict,” the ICRC said in a statement.
“The scenes unfolding today in Mariupol and other cities are heartbreaking,” added the organisation, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
On Saturday morning, Russia announced a ceasefire from 07:00 GMT to allow civilians from Mariupol and the town of Volnovaka, 60 km to the north, to leave.
But the evacuation of residents of Mariupol, a strategic Ukrainian port surrounded by Russian forces and their allies, has been delayed due to multiple Russian ceasefire violations, the port city’s municipal council charged Saturday.
The capture of Mariupol, a city of about 450,000 people located on the Sea of Azov, would be a turning point in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It would allow the intersection of the Russian forces coming from the annexed Crimea, which had already captured the main ports of Berdyansk and Kherson, and the separatist and Russian forces in the Donbass.
“Whether or not humanitarian corridors are implemented in the coming days, the parties must continue to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure under international humanitarian law, both for those who choose to leave and for those who remain,” he stressed.
It also noted that “so-called humanitarian corridors or other measures aimed at bringing relief to people affected by conflict must be well planned and implemented with the consent of the parties to the conflict.”
The ICRC, as a neutral and impartial humanitarian mediator, says it is ready to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians “as soon as the parties reach an agreement and the terms are strictly humanitarian”.