Russia and Ukraine on Saturday said citizens in the besieged city of Mariupol would temporarily be allowed to evacuate through a humanitarian corridor.
The Mariupol City Council said on its Telegram channel that Russian forces — which are over a week into an all-out assault on Ukraine — would reduce operations for five hours on Saturday to allow civilians to flee. The Russian defense ministry also confirmed its plans in a separate statement.
A similar arrangement has also been established in the nearby town of Volnovakha, a senior Ukrainian official confirmed.
Mariupol and Volnovakha have been two of the hardest-hit cities during Russia’s offensive, bearing the brunt of Moscow’s attempts to gain strategic sites in southeast Ukraine.
The development comes as Russian and Ukrainian delegations prepare to meet Saturday for a third round of talks amid the intensifying conflict, which has seen Russian forces bomb residential areas. Two prior rounds of talks failed to produce any substantial progress toward a ceasefire, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no sign of backing down. But the humanitarian corridors are one small outcome.
In Mariupol, a city of over 400,000 people, 5,000 civilians will be allowed to evacuate, Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told ITV News.
“I can confirm this morning we received information about a ceasefire that was established between Ukrainian and Russian sides,” he said. “All night, we had bombs from Russian planes but after this information, we can confirm that ceasefire started.”
The announcement follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s urgent call to NATO Friday to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine — a step NATO has ruled out for fear that it could bring the military alliance into direct confrontation with Russia.
“All the people who die from this day forward will also die because of [NATO], because of your weakness, because of your lack of unity,” he said.