Russia has given Ukrainian forces a deadline of 5am Moscow time (2am GMT) to lay down their arms in the eastern port city of Mariupol, where it said a “terrible humanitarian catastrophe” was unfolding.
“Lay down your arms,” Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Defense Management Center, said on Sunday in a briefing. “A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed,” he said. “All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol.”
Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardment since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped in the city with little, if any, food, water or power.
Mizintsev said humanitarian corridors for civilians would be opened eastwards and westwards out of Mariupol at 10am Moscow time (7am GMT) on Monday. Ukraine has until 5am Moscow time to respond to the offer on humanitarian corridors and lay down its arms, he said.
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the failure to open such corridors in recent weeks. Mizintsev, without providing evidence, said that Ukrainian “bandits”, “neo-Nazis” and nationalists had engaged in “mass terror” and gone on a killing spree in the city.
Ukraine says it is fighting for its existence and the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Saturday that the siege of Mariupol was “a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come”. The west has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia that the Kremlin says amount to a declaration of economic war by the US and its allies.
The Mariupol city council said on its Telegram channel late on Saturday that several thousand residents had been “deported” to Russia over the past week. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands of people, displaced more than 10 million and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the US.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has said the “special military operation” in Ukraine is necessary to disarm and “de-nazify” its neighbour.