“The Russian side has provided a humanitarian corridor to allow the evacuation of civilians from the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk. Despite all these measures, (…) the authorities in kyiv cynically caused the humanitarian operation to fail,” the Russian Ministry of Defense accused in a press release.
On Tuesday, Russia said it would set up a “humanitarian corridor” on Wednesday from 0500 GMT to 1700 GMT to allow civilians who have taken refuge in the Azot factory to leave Severodonetsk towards territories controlled by Moscow forces in north.
Violation of a ceasefire?
The Russian Ministry of Defense, however, accused the Ukrainian forces of having “violated the ceasefire several times” and of having “used the humanitarian pause to redeploy to more advantageous (combat) positions”.
It was not possible to independently verify these claims.
A strategic city in eastern Ukraine, Severodonetsk has for several weeks been the scene of violent clashes between the Ukrainian army and the forces of Moscow as well as their pro-Russian separatist allies.
According to the Ukrainian authorities, several hundred people are currently taking refuge in the large Azot chemical plant, which they claim is constantly bombarded.
Similar to Azovstal
This situation recalls, on a lesser scale, that which existed in the large Azovstal metallurgical complex in Mariupol, a large port city in the south-east, which fell into Russian hands in May after several weeks of siege.
Hundreds of civilians had taken refuge in underground galleries in Azovstal, before finding themselves trapped there alongside Ukrainian fighters, in extremely difficult conditions as the bombs rained down nonstop.
Russia had repeatedly announced the establishment of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but several agreements had fallen through, with Moscow and kyiv accusing each other of having broken them.