Russia invades Ukraine: Kyiv sends 45 buses to evacuate civilians from Mariupol

Russia invades Ukraine: Kyiv sends 45 buses to evacuate civilians from Mariupol
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The Ukrainian government is sending 45 buses on Thursday to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, where the Russian defence ministry has announced a local ceasefire, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"Tonight, we received a message from the International Red Cross Committee that the Russian Federation confirms its readiness to open access for the humanitarian convoy to the city of Mariupol with transit through the city of Berdiansk," she said in video posted on Telegram.

"We are sending 45 buses to the Mariupol corridor".

Seventeen buses had already left for Mariupol from Zaporizhzhia, around 220 kilometres (136 miles) to the northwest, she said.

Another 28 were waiting for authorisation to pass the Russian checkpoint in Vasylivka, near Zaporizhzhia.

"We will do everything possible to ensure that buses arrive in Mariupol today and pick up people who have not yet been able to get out of the city," Vereschuk said.

So far, with agreements on centralised evacuations not being respected, civilians have only been able to leave Mariupol in their own cars, which is extremely dangerous.

The strategic southern port city has been encircled and shelled by Russian forces since the end of February.

People who have managed to flee and ONGs have described the conditions there as catastrophic, with civilians bunkered down in cellars, deprived of water, food and communication and with dead bodies littering the streets.

Late Wednesday, the Russian defence ministry said that a humanitarian corridor would be opened from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, from 10:00 am (0700 GMT) on Thursday.

"For this humanitarian operation to succeed, we propose to carry it out with the direct participation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross," the ministry statement said.

The Russian ministry asked Kyiv to guarantee the "unconditional respect" for the ceasefire through written notification to the Russian side, the UNHCR and ICRC before 6:00 am (0300 GMT) Thursday.

Moscow also asked the Ukrainian army to commit to ensure the security of the bus convoys along the designated corridor.

Dputy premier Vereschuk said that Ukrainian forces had "confirmed they'll guarantee the ceasefire".

Two other evacuation corridors were agreed for Thursday, from Melitopol to Zaporizhzhia and from Energodar, where Ukraine's biggest nuclear plant is situated, also to Zaporizhzhia.

5:20 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The New Arab concludes its live coverage of the latest from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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4:40 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian troops leave Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Russian troops were leaving the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and heading towards Ukraine's border with Belarus, according to Energoatom, the Ukrainian nuclear operator company.

The operator said that the Russian military was also preparing to leave Slavutych, a nearby city where power plant workers live.

Energoatom said the Russians received “significant doses of radiation” from being near to the plant and “panicked at the first sign of illness,” which “showed up very quickly”.

The operator says troops then began to prepare to leave and that the Russians have signed a document confirming the handover of the Chernobyl plant . However, the claim couldn't be independently verified by AP.

3:50 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukrainian refugees encouraged to find jobs in new host countries

Authorities in Poland and other neighbouring nations are encouraging Ukrainian refugees to find jobs, especially in health care and education, AP reported.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR reported Thursday that the daily number of arriving refugees recorded by Ukraine's bordering countries dropped below 40,000 on Wednesday, the fewest since Russian troops invaded five weeks ago.

Recent legislation passed in Poland allows Ukrainian refugees to obtain ID numbers that entitle them to free medical care, education, social benefits and the right to work for 18 months.

Refugees in Warsaw have submitted about 700 applications and some 100 have been hired for jobs in the Polish capital's medical centres and schools, AP report city officials as stating.

3:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

President Zelensky says peace in Ukraine is worth more than diamonds

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday told Belgian parliament that achieving lasting peace in Ukraine following the Russian invasion is more valuable than the Kremlin's gas or diamonds.

"Peace is more valuable than diamonds, than Russian ships in the ports, than oil and gas -- so help us," Zelensky said in a video address to Belgian lawmakers.

The brutal invasion began on February 24 and 4,059,105 Ukrainians have fled their country's borders since, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

2:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia drafts 134,500 conscripts, says it had 'nothing to do with Ukraine'

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army, Reuters reported.

The order comes as part of Russia's annual spring draft, as the defence ministry said it had nothing to do with the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine - which began on 24 February.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that none of those called up would be sent to any "hot spots".

On March 9, the defence ministry acknowledged that some conscripts been sent to Ukraine after Putin had denied this on various occasions, saying only professional soldiers and officers had been sent in.

For more on this story, click here.

1:50 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Kremlin is 'concerned' about a US 'misunderstanding' of President Putin 

The United States does "not understand" President Putin or what happens in the Kremlin, according to Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov's comments come after White House and European officials said on Wednesday that they believed Putin had been misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how poorly the conflict in Ukraine was going or how badly Western sanctions had hit Russia.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield had told reporters that Russia had made a "strategic error" and that a lack of accurate reporting had led to "persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership".

"To our regret - and, in fact, this probably even causes our concern - it turns out that neither the State Department nor the Pentagon has real information about what is happening in the Kremlin," Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.

"They just don't understand what happens in the Kremlin, they don't understand President Putin, they don't understand the decision-making mechanism, and they don't understand the way we work," he said.

Peskov said such a "misunderstanding... causes anxiety', stating it could "to rash decisions that have very bad consequences".

1:05 PM
The New Arab Staff

UNHCR call Ukrainian refugee exodus a 'massive humanitarian crisis'

The United Nations warned on Thursday the refugee exodus from Ukraine following the Russian invasion is a "massive humanitarian crisis" that is growing by the second.

"We are confronted with the realities of a massive humanitarian crisis that is growing by the second," UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said

The number of Ukrainians fleeing across the western borders to escape the war-torn country has settled at around 40,000 a day over the past week.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 4,059,105 Ukrainians had fled across the country's borders since the February 24 invasion began.

Women and children account for 90 percent of those who have fled, as Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are eligible for military call-up and cannot leave.

12:25 PM
The New Arab Staff

Turkey 'ready' to act as a guarantor for Ukraine

Turkey is ready to act as a guarantor country for Ukraine, but details must be worked out, President Tayyip Erdogan said according to reports.

"We can be one of the guarantor countries ensuring Ukraine's security, we are ready for this in principle, but of course the details of this need to be worked out," broadcaster NTV cited him as saying.

Istanbul has good ties with both Ukraine and Russia and offered to mediate the conflict, following Russia's invasion of the country on 24 February.

This week Turkey hosted negotiators from both sides for the first face-to-face peace talks in weeks.

Erdogan said the talks in Istanbul, where Ukraine gave Russia a written proposal to end the war, had provided "significant momentum" to the process, Reuters reported.

11:47 AM
The New Arab Staff

French military spy chief quits over Paris' Ukraine failings

A French military intelligence chief is stepping down from his post after Paris failed to accurately predict -  in contrast to other Western allies - that Russia would launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, sources told AFP.

General Eric Vidaud, who has led the Direction of Military Intelligence (DRM) since only last summer, will reportedly to immediately step down from his post.

The source confirmed a report on the l'Opinion website citing an internal defence ministry investigation that criticised "insufficient briefings" and "failure to master the issues," AFP reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, which went ahead on February 24.

France's evaluation of the situation prior to the attack had contrasted with the gloomy predictions by allies including the US and Britain who warned a major military assault was imminent.

11:04 AM
The New Arab Staff

Red Cross prepares to help Ukrainian civilians evacuate Mariupol

The Red Cross said it was preparing to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Friday, if all parties agree to the terms, AFP reported.

"It's desperately important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it," the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Russian forces have pummelled the city and tens of thousands of civilians are trapped there with little food, water or medicine.

So far agreements on centralised evacuations have not been respected, leaving civilians only able to leave Mariupol in their own cars, which is extremely dangerous.

The strategic southern port city has been encircled and shelled by Russian forces since the end of February.

10:43 AM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine requests help from Australia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requested help from Australian lawmakers on Thursday amid Russia's invasion of his country.

His request was to be given armoured vehicles and for tougher sanctions to be placed on Russia.

“You have very good armed personnel vehicles, Bushmasters, that could help Ukraine substantially, and other pieces of equipment,” Zelenskyy said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier told the president that Australia would provide additional military assistance including tactical decoys, rations and medical supplies. 

“You have our prayers, but you also have our weapons, our humanitarian aid, our sanctions against those who seek to deny your freedom and you even have our coal,” Morrison said.

10:17 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia, Ukraine foreign ministers could meet soon: Turkey

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba could meet within two weeks for talks, Turkey said Thursday, after hosting negotiators from both sides earlier this week.

"There could be a higher-level meeting, at least at the level of foreign ministers, within about a week or two weeks," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview.

"What matters is that the two sides come together and agree on a lasting ceasefire," he said. "We would like to host a foreign ministers' meeting as an honest mediator."

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Istanbul on Tuesday. The talks provided a spark of hope for an end to the war in Ukraine but there are few signs of attacks abating on the ground.

NATO member Turkey, which has friendly ties with both sides, has positioned itself as a mediator and hosted Lavrov and Kuleba in the southern city of Antalya in early March.

9:16 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Ukrainian government is sending 45 buses on Thursday to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, where the Russian defence ministry has announced a local ceasefire, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.



The New Arab Staff
The New Arab Staff & Agencies