Russia reports ceasefire in 2 Ukraine areas for evacuations

The Russian military is observing a ceasefire in two areas of Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate, Russian state media reported Saturday, but there was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine. It would be the first breakthrough in allowing civilians to escape the war, Associated Press reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the eastern town of Volnovakha “from 10 a.m. Moscow time.” The vaguely worded statement did not make clear how long the routes would remain open, Associated Press reported.

The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the older adults to get away from the fighting, calling such corridors “question No. 1.”

As Russian forces batter strategic locations, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has lashed out at NATO for refusing to impose a no-fly zone over his country, warning that “all the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you.”

NATO said a no-fly zone could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia. But as the United States and other NATO members send weapons for Kyiv and more than 1 million refugees spill through the continent, the conflict is already drawing in countries far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Russia continues to crack down on independent media reporting on the war, also blocking Facebook and Twitter, and more outlets say they are pausing their work inside the country.

And in a warning of a hunger crisis yet to come, the U.N. World Food Program says millions of people inside Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, will need food aid “immediately.”

Ukraine’s president was set to brief U.S. senators on Saturday by video conference as Congress considers a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian aid and security needs.

In a bitter and emotional speech late Friday, Zelenskyy criticized NATO over the lack of a no-fly zone, saying it will fully untie Russia’s hands as it escalates its air attack.

“The alliance has given the green light to the bombing of Ukrainian cities and villages,” he said, warning that “the history of Europe will remember this forever.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier in the day ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone, saying NATO planes would have to shoot down Russian aircraft.

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