Evacuation Route Offered to Fleeing Ukrainians Was Mined—Red Cross

An evacuation route out of the besieged port city of Mariupol in Ukraine was mined, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Dominik Stillhart, the director of operations for the ICRC, told the BBC's Today program on Monday that the organization had been talking to both sides "for days on end," but issues remained with confirming the details of cease-fire agreements that would allow civilians out of bombarded cities.

He said that agreements "in principle" had immediately broken down because they lacked the precise detail about the routes and who could use them.

Stillhart said some ICRC staff had tried to get out of Mariupol on Sunday, but then discovered the road indicated to them was mined.

"We have a team on Mariupol on the ground," he said. "They were ready yesterday despite the fact that it was not entirely clear what exactly the agreement was. And as soon as they reached the first checkpoints, they realized that the road that was indicated to them was actually mined. So therefore, the agreement couldn't be implemented.

"That is why it is so important that the two parties have a precise agreement for us then to be able to facilitate it on the ground." The ICRC has been contacted for additional comment.

An ICRC spokesperson clarified to Newsweek on Monday: "In an interview earlier today our director of operations Dominik Stillhart said that the road the safe passage convoy was supposed to take is mined.

"The ICRC would like to clarify that ICRC staff, their families as well as other civilians, could not leave Mariupol because there was no agreement on safe routes out of the city and because hostilities resumed."

The spokesperson added that a second attempt to start evacuating 200,000 people from Mariupol was halted on Sunday.

"We still need an agreement between the parties for any so-called humanitarian corridor to go ahead," the spokesperson said. "The failed attempts in recent days underscore the absence of a detailed and functioning agreement between the parties to the conflict."

It came as Russia announced new "humanitarian corridors" in several parts of Ukraine on Monday—the 12th day of the war—after two failed bids to evacuate civilians from Mariupol at the weekend.

According to maps published by Russian state news agency RIA, those fleeing Kharkiv would be forced to go only to Russia, while the route from Kyiv would lead to Belarus, Russia's ally. Of the six proposed corridors, only Mariupol and Sumy have routes that lead to other parts of Ukraine.

Moscow's offer was immediately denounced by Ukraine and its allies, who accused Russia of trying to push its own narrative.

A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the move "completely immoral."

"They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine," the spokesperson told Reuters. "This is one of the problems that is causing the humanitarian corridors to break down. They seem to agree to them, but they themselves want to supply humanitarian aid for a picture on TV, and want the corridors to lead in their direction."

The war in Ukraine has caused more than 1.7 million people to flee the country since February 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi has called it "the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge in Irpin
Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images

Update 3/7/22, 11:10 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional comment from the International Committee of the Red Cross.