in Mariupol, the evacuation of civilians turns into a showdown between Russia and the West

A family from Mariupol arrives in Zaporizhia (Ukraine), March 29, 2022.

Will Russia keep its word? Thursday, March 31, Moscow said it accepted the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow the inhabitants of the martyr city of Mariupol to flee the city, besieged, isolated and bombarded relentlessly for more than a month. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, this corridor should be open on Friday 1er April ” from Mariupol to Zaporizhia [à 220 km au nord-ouest de l’Ukraine] from 10 a.m. Moscow time [9 heures, heure de Paris]». This measure is taken following“a personal request from the French President and the German Chancellor to Russian President Vladimir Putin”he added.

The Ukrainian authorities have decided to dispatch a convoy of 45 buses to the area in order to evacuate the population as soon as possible. Seventeen buses have already left for Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Read also: War in Ukraine: why Mariupol is a priority target for Russia

The Committee of the International Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must be associated with the mechanism. The ICRC has already tried several times to organize evacuations from Mariupol, to no avail so far. “It is vital that these operations can take place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it”insisted the organization.

Buried in caves, without water or food

More than 160,000 residents are stuck in the city in terrible conditions. Those who managed to leave with their own vehicle, taking great risks, recounted how civilians live holed up in cellars, deprived of water, food and all communication, with corpses strewn in the streets. The European Union has denounced this blockade as a “major war crime”. The municipality also accuses Moscow of having evacuated ” against their will “ more than 20,000 inhabitants of Mariupol in Russia.

The announcement of a humanitarian pause in the fighting is all the more expected as it comes after several days of insistent requests from Emmanuel Macron. The Head of State had launched Thursday, March 24 in Brussels a call for a vast evacuation operation.

After a few days of contacts in all directions, Mr. Macron was able to speak about it on Tuesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone – his ninth call with him since the start of the invasion by Russia on February 24. However, this had not led to any progress: the head of the Kremlin had refused to make the slightest commitment, only promising his interlocutor to come back to him after having studied the question.

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