| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

Ukraine decries ‘immoral’ stunt after Moscow says it will let civilians flee to Russia

On Monday, Moscow announced it would let inhabitants of Ukraine’s two major cities to evacuate through corridors to Russia and Belarus, a move Ukraine condemned as an unethical attempt to weaponize the suffering of people under Russian bombing.

Both parties stated that a third round of discussions will take place on Monday in an unknown location in Belarus. Two prior rounds produced little more than vows to provide humanitarian access routes that have yet to be properly executed.

Russia’s promise of “humanitarian corridors” came after two days of unsuccessful ceasefires to allow residents to flee the besieged city of Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands are stuck without food or water and are being bombarded relentlessly.

According to maps published by the RIA news agency, the corridor from Kyiv would lead to Russia’s ally Belarus, while civilians from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city, would be directed to Russia.

“Attempts by the Ukrainian side to deceive Russia and the whole civilised world … are useless this time,” the ministry said.

A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “completely immoral” saying Russia was trying to “use people’s suffering to create a television picture”.

“They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine,” the spokesperson told Reuters.

Russia’s invasion has been condemned around the world, sent more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing abroad, and triggered sweeping sanctions that have abruptly isolated Russia to a degree never before experienced by such a large economy.

Global share prices plunged on Monday after Washington said it was considering extending its sanctions to Russia’s energy exports, until now carved out from trade bans. read more

Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and gas. Brent crude prices surged above $139 a barrel on Monday, the closest they have come in 14 years to the all-time high of $147. Investment banks say prices could approach $200 this year if Russian supply evaporates, with dire consequences for the global economy.

Both Russia and Ukraine are also among the world’s main exporters of grain, edible oils and industrial metals. The war threatens to send global food prices skyrocketing and complicate industries’ recovery from the pandemic crisis.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians. It calls the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove leaders it describes as neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a transparent pretext for an invasion to conquer a nation of 44 million people.

  • Reuters