Russia Continues Attacks Despite the Promise of a Ceasefire
On March 7, 2022, Russian officials announced a ceasefire that would start at 10 am the following day in order to allow Ukrainian citizens the opportunity to evacuate densely populated cities, including the capital city Kyiv, as well as Kharkiv and Sumy. A senior official in Ukraine rejected the ceasefire due to several major issues with Russia’s proposal.
The first issue comes from the Moscow armed forces that continued to attack cities in Ukraine after the announcement. While Ukrainian citizens were attempting to evacuate, Moscow forces reportedly continued firing rockets into the cities, forcing civilians to seek shelter. While it was unclear if the ceasefire would pertain to all of Ukraine, the continued attacks on civilian-populated areas made Russia’s ceasefire offer appear less sincere.
The second issue comes from the evacuation routes themselves. The routes that would have been deemed safe to travel would lead Ukrainian citizens to either Russia or Belarus, one of Russia’s allies. There were reports of Russia shelling the routes that were supposed to be safe as well, which is the reason why previous evacuation attempts failed.
With power outages and food and water shortages, many civilians in Ukraine are looking for a way out of the war zone. Despite a Ukrainian official rejecting the ceasefire, a convoy of mostly foreign students managed to leave the city of Sumy on March 8, 2022. This resulted in the first successful humanitarian corridor since Russia began its attack against Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Around 1,000 students were safely evacuated from Sumy that day.
As of the most recent update on March 17, 2022, around 3 million people have evacuated Ukraine, with Poland taking in close to 2 million refugees. On top of that, over 150,000 Ukrainian refugees evacuated into Russia, and around 2,000 into Belarus.
There has been an agreement between Ukraine and Russia to open more humanitarian corridors, much like the one that was in Sumy, but there’s the question of how successful they will be. The evacuation in Sumy worked because there was a temporary ceasefire that held long enough for buses and cars to leave with the students. While these new talks mention opening humanitarian corridors in cities where the fighting is heavily concentrated, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhaylo Podolyak has stated that there has not been any success in negotiating a ceasefire. The evacuations may lead to a temporary ceasefire, but nothing has been confirmed yet. On top of evacuations, food and medical supplies should be entering through the humanitarian corridors into Ukrainian cities in order to aid those unable or unwilling to leave.
Since Russia began its full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, around 14,000 Russian soldiers have died, and 600 captured. Between 2,000 and 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, and over 500 captured by Russian forces. Civilian deaths have been harder to count, with the UN reporting around 700 dead, and Ukraine claiming 3,000 in two major cities alone.
While many are wondering when this conflict will come to an end, it is important to remember that the war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for 8 years now, since February 20, 2014. The talks of opening more humanitarian corridors offer hope for civilians currently in Ukraine, but with negotiations regarding a ceasefire appearing to go nowhere, it is difficult to predict how much longer this war will continue.