KIEV/MOSCOW, March 7: The Russian armed forces announced a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors in four Ukrainian cities starting 10 a.m. Moscow time (0700 GMT) on Monday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Taking into account the “catastrophic humanitarian situation and its sharp aggravation in Kiev, Kharkov, Sumy and Mariupol,” the decision was made at the personal request of French President Emmanuel Macron to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ministry said in a statement.
Russia has published evacuation routes from the four Ukrainian cities, and reported the information to the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to the ministry.
Moscow demands that the Ukrainian side establish all the conditions for the creation of humanitarian corridors and ensure an organized withdrawal of civilians and foreign citizens, it said.
Since Russia announced a special military operation against Ukraine 12 days ago, the two sides have had two rounds of negotiations in neighboring Belarus in search of a solution to the crisis, with no clear breakthrough in the first one and an agreement to open a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians during the second one on Thursday.
On Sunday, Ukraine said it was ready to discuss “some non-NATO models.”
“We are ready to discuss some non-NATO models … We are open to discuss such things in a broader circle, not only in bilateral discussions with Russia, but also with other partners,” David Arakhamia, member of the Ukrainian delegation for talks with Russia, told Fox News.
Arakhamia said NATO countries are not ready to discuss having Ukraine in the organization.
“The response that we are getting from the NATO countries is that they are not ready to even discuss having us in NATO, not for the closest period of five or 10 years. We would not fight for the NATO applications, we would fight for the result, but not for the process,” said Arakhamia.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that his country is ready for dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities and foreign partners to resolve the conflict.
Putin made the remarks in a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which the Russian president also expressed the hope that the representatives of Ukraine will take a more constructive approach during the planned next round of negotiations.
Putin also held a phone conversation with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, on Sunday.
During the conversation, the two heads of state discussed the evacuation of civilians. Putin also informed the French president about the current state of the Russia-Ukraine talks, expressing readiness to “continue the dialogue under Kiev’s unconditional compliance with Russia’s known demands.”
Also on Sunday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Kiev was urgently covering up traces of a military biological program carried out in Ukraine and funded by the Pentagon, according to RT.
“We have received documentation from employees of Ukrainian biolaboratories on the emergency destruction on February 24 of especially dangerous pathogens of plague, anthrax, tularemia, cholera and other deadly diseases,” RT quoted a statement from the ministry as saying.
However, RT said it could not “independently verify the authenticity of these documents.”