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Russia offers Ukrainian civilians, even soldiers who lay down arms safe passage from port city

Col Gen Mikhail Mizintsev had said yesterday Russia would wait until 5 AM today for a written response from Kyiv to the Russian proposal for the Ukrainian troops to leave Mariupol

has offered the Ukrainian troops defending the strategic port of Mariupol to lay down arms and exit the city via humanitarian corridors, but that proposal was quickly rejected by the Ukrainian authorities.

Col Gen Mikhail Mizintsev said Sunday that all Ukrainian soldiers could leave the Azov Sea port Monday using safe routes for evacuating civilians that had been previously agreed with Ukraine and head to areas controlled by the Ukrainian authorities. He said that “all those who lay down arms will be guaranteed a safe exit from Mariupol.”

Mizintsev had said yesterday that would wait until 5 AM today for a written response from Kyiv to the Russian proposal for the Ukrainian troops to leave Mariupol but didn’t say what action Russia will take if its “humanitarian offer” is rejected.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in remarks carried by the news outlet Ukrainska Pravda that Kyiv already had told that “there can be no talk about surrender and laying down weapons”. She rejected the Russian statement as “manipulation”.

Mizintsev said that the deliveries of humanitarian supplies to the city will immediately follow if the Ukrainian troops agree to leave the city. He added that civilians will be free to choose whether to leave Mariupol or stay in the city.

Troops of advancing on Kyiv from the north-east have stalled and the bulk of its forces remain more than 25 kilometres from the centre of the city, British military intelligence said on Monday. “Heavy fighting continues north of Kyiv,” the Ministry of Defence said. “Forces advancing from the direction of Hostomel to the north-west have been repulsed by fierce Ukrainian resistance.”

At least 902 civilians have been killed and 1,459 injured in Ukraine as of midnight local time on 19 March, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said yesterday. Most of the casualties were from explosive weapons such as shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes, OHCHR said. The actual toll is thought to be considerably higher since OHCHR, which has a large monitoring team in the country, has not yet been able to receive or verify casualty reports from several badly hit cities including Mariupol, it said.

Out of the aforementioned casualties, at least six people were killed in an overnight bombing on a shopping centre in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, an AFP journalist said today. Six bodies were laid out in front of the “Retroville” shopping mall in the northwest of Kyiv, according to the journalist. The building had been hit by a powerful blast that pulverised vehicles in its car park and a crater several metres wide.

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