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Russia sets cease-fire for evacuations amid heavy shelling

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Russia announced a yet another cease-fire and a handful of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee Ukraine starting Monday, but previous such measures have fallen apart and Moscow’s armed forces continued to hammer some Ukrainian cities with rockets even after the announcement, according to AP News. 

A day earlier, hundreds of thousands of civilians attempting to flee to safety were forced to shelter from what Ukrainian officials said was Russian shelling in cities in the center, north and south.

Ahead of a third round of talks planned for Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said a cease-fire would start in the morning, and safe passages would open for civilians from the capital of Kyiv, the southern port city of Mariupol, and the cities of Kharkiv and Sumy. Some of the evacuation routes, however, would funnel civilians toward Russia or its ally Belarus — unlikely destinations for many Ukrainians who would prefer to head toward countries on the western and southern borders.

A senior Ukrainian official rejected those proposals.

Humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians out of Ukrainian cities are still not up and running, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Monday, Reuters reports. 

It wasn’t immediately clear if fighting would stop beyond the areas mentioned or when the cease-fire would end. Hopes were dim that the latest round of talks would yield any breakthroughs.

Well into the second week of war, Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country has been stymied by fierce resistance. Its troops have made significant advances in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have become stalled, including an immense military convoy that has been almost motionless for days north of Kyiv.

The fighting has sent energy prices surging worldwide, stocks plummeting, and is threatening the food supply and livelihoods of people around the world who rely on farmland in the Black Sea region.

The Russian invasion has also pushed 1.5 million people to flee the country, creating what the head of the U.N. refugee agency called “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”

The Russian task force said the new pledge for humanitarian corridors was announced at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday. Macron’s office said he asked for a broader end to military operations in Ukraine and protections for civilians.

Vereshchuk called the proposed evacuation routes to Russia and Belarus “unacceptable.” Belarus is a key ally of Putin and served as a launching ground for the invasion.

The Ukrainian government is proposing eight humanitarian corridors, including from Mariupol, that would allow civilians to travel to the western regions of Ukraine where there is no Russian shelling.