Russia Announces Cease-Fire in Two Ukrainian Cities to Allow Evacuations

Russia has declared a temporary cease-fire in two areas of Ukraine to create humanitarian corridors aimed at allowing civilians to evacuate, according to state media reports.

The cease-fire started on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. local time (2:00 a.m. ET) and the evacuation which is expected to start at 11:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. ET), the BBC reported.

The move was reported by state-owned news agency Tass and confirmed by the Ukrainian head of the Donetsk region military administration, Pavlo Kirilenko, according to the BBC.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the corridors would allow people to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast of the country and the eastern town of Volnovakha.

While the cease-fire is to last on Saturday until 4 p.m. local time, the statement by Russia did not clarify how long the green corridor routes would remain open.

The municipal authority in Mariupol said that the evacuations would take place over "several days" suggesting the cease-fire could be renewed.

"There will be several stages of evacuation over several days so that everyone can leave," the Mariupol City Council said on social media.

The municipal authority also said "it will be possible to leave the city by private transport" but that it was "strictly prohibited" to go off course from the evacuation routes.

Buses are to depart from three locations in the city The council asked all drivers leaving the city to "take people with you, fill the vehicles as much as possible."

Mariupol has come under constant Russian artillery fire with aid groups saying that it is facing a humanitarian catastrophe, as heating, water and electricity are lacking.

Mariupol's mayor, Vadym Boichenko told the Financial Times in a story published Saturday that his city was "under siege" and that the Russians "are trying to exterminate us."

The publication said that the shelling of Mariupol was so intense no one had dared venture out to bury the dead who lie on the street.

Mariupol has a population of around 450,000. Located in the southeast of the country, it is strategically important.

Should the city fall, Russia would control one of Ukraine's biggest ports and be able to create a land corridor between Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Russian-backed regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Volnovakha, the other scene of the temporary cease-fire, lies north of Mariupol and occupies a key location on the road between Mariupol and Russia-controlled Donetsk.

While the first cease-fire since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 has been welcomed, the two cities involved are the only ones covered by the temporary agreement.

Meanwhile, the fighting continues in other parts of the country, with explosions heard in Kharkiv in the northeast of the country, the BBC reported. Shelling also began in the early morning in the eastern city of Sumy, which is surrounded by Russian troops, the outlet said.

Ukrainian soldier
An Ukrainian soldier keeps position sitting on a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun at a frontline, northeast of Kyiv on March 3, 2022. Russia has announced a temporary cease-fire in two Ukrainian cities on March 5, 2022. ARIS MESSINIS/Getty

Update 03/04/22, 4:30 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with further information.