Moscow, Mar 20 (EFE).- Russia on Sunday issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian military forces in Mariupol to surrender and leave the coastal city before midday on Monday.
Russia has been relentlessly bombarding the city for some days, killing uncounted civilians and Ukrainian military personnel and devastating a large portion of the Black Sea coastal city.
“In that case, the organized exit from the city will be made in the following manner: from 10 am to noon all the armed units of Ukraine and the foreign mercenaries without weapons and ammunition (will be able to abandon the city) via a route agreed to with Ukraine,” said Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Center for Defense Management, at a Defense Ministry briefing.
Mizintsev accused “nationalist” Ukrainians of sowing “chaos” and “terror” in Mariupol resulting in a serious humanitarian catastrophe in the city.
He said that Russian troops had not used heavy armament in the city and neither has pro-Russian militias from Donetsk who are fighting with Russia’s army in what the Kremlin calls a “special operation” but what most of the rest of the world calls a brutal and unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.
Mizintsev also said that Ukrainian forces who surrender and lay down their arms will be allowed to leave the city “safely and without any danger to their lives.”
He said that if Ukrainian forces in Mariupol agreed to surrender by 5 am on Monday, humanitarian corridors for civilians would be opened so that civilians could leave the city.
Starting at midday on Monday, he said, Russia would allow humanitarian convoys to enter the city with food, medicines and basic items dispatched from Kyiv and from parts of Ukraine not under the control of Russian forces.
He also called on international organizations like the United Nations and the International Red Cross to sent their representatives to the city to supervise the evacuation of civilians, adding that local residents would be allowed to select the humanitarian corridor via which they would exit or could remain in the city.
The Ukrainian government admitted two days ago that it has no way of sending military reinforcements to Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian forces, with officials saying that the closest Ukrainian troops are more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) away and involved in other combat operations.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that he is “prepared” to negotiate face-to-face with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to end the war but he discounted the idea of recognizing the independence of the eastern pro-Russian Donbass region or Russian sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
In an interview with CNN, Zelenskyy categorically stated that he will not make “any commitment that affects the territorial integrity and the sovereignty” of Ukraine.
The Kremlin has demanded that Kyiv renounce ever joining NATO and recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the Donbass along with Russian control of Crimea.
He said that the Ukrainian people had made clear that “they have not received the Russian soldiers with flowers but rather with courage and weapons in their hands.”
Ukrainian armed forces in the Lugansk region on Sunday accused Russia of bombarding an elderly care facility on March 11 using a tank in the town of Kreminna, killing at least 56 people.
“56 people died in Kreminna. On March 11, the Russian occupiers fired from a tank at an old folks’ home in Kreminna. They did so deliberately and cynically. They simply placed their tank in front of the building and began firing,” the Ukrainian commander in the Lugansk area controlled by Kyiv’s troops, Serhiy Haidai, said on the Telegram social network.
He added that the Russians had kidnapped 15 people who survived the attack and took them to another elderly care center in Svatove, in territory that Moscow’s troops control.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, said Sunday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been “so devastating” that 10 million people have been forced from their homes, both within Ukraine itself and into surrounding nations as refugees.
The most recent figures are that 3.39 million people have left Ukraine to get away from the fighting since the invasion began 24 days ago.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Sunday, in an interview with CNN, cast doubt on the willingness of the Kremlin to reach a negotiated agreement with Ukraine to end the war, saying it seemed that the negotiations are unilateral with the Russians being disinclined toward any possibility of a negotiated and diplomatic settlement.