Hand-to-hand combat breaks out as Russia shells civilians and mines escape routes

8 March 2022, 11:53 | Updated: 8 March 2022, 12:58

Russia launched several attacks on a humanitarian corridor into Mariupol, agreed to allow people to flee and vital supplies to be delivered by the Red Cross
Russia launched several attacks on a humanitarian corridor into Mariupol, agreed to allow people to flee and vital supplies to be delivered by the Red Cross. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Russia has started shelling civilians trying to flee the besieged city of Mariupol, according to the Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

The ceasefire was agreed between Ukraine and Russia to allow people to escape unharmed.

It was also in place to allow humanitarian aid in, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a child had died of thirst in the city as it runs low on food, water and medicine.

But the shell attack throws both the evacuation mission and the humanitarian effort into jeopardy.

Russians also put mines on the route out of the city, according to the Red Cross.

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Russia have violated multiple similar ceasefires over recent days.

It comes as a Ukrainian paratroop commander Stas, who spoke to AFP, said Russians are fighting street-to-street in places such as Irpin and Bucha in an attempt to surround and besiege Kyiv.

"In some places, there is hand-to-hand combat," he said.

"There is a huge column - 200 men, 50 light armoured vehicles, several tanks.

"We are trying to push them out, but I don't know if we'll be fully able to do it."

In a tweet, the MFA said: "Ceasefire violated!

"Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol.

"8 trucks + 30 buses ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and to evac civilians to Zaporizhzhia.

"Pressure on Russia MUST step up to make it uphold its commitments."

Russia has violated several other ceasefires, agreed to help civilians escape before Russian bombardment, in recent days.

In the northeastern city of Sumy, a procession of buses packed with evacuees began moving along a snowy route on Tuesday.

Passengers held their breaths that Russia would hold fire and allow them to pass, after 21 people - including two children - were killed in an attack on a residential street on Monday.

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President Zelenskyy said: "Mariupol was surrounded, blocked, is being exhausted, tortured. For the first time in dozens of years, perhaps for the first time since the Nazi invasion, a child died of dehydration. Hear me, today, dear partners! A child died of dehydration in 2022!

"The blame for every death in Ukraine from air strikes and in blocked cities lies with [Russia]."

President Zelenskyy previously condemned the attacks, saying the country "will not forgive" the deaths of innocent people.

"We will not forgive the shooting of unarmed people," he said.

"We will not forgive. Hundreds and hundreds of victims. Thousands and thousands suffering.

"And God will not forgive. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never.

"And instead of forgiveness, there will be a day of judgement."

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The southern city of Mariupol has been under attack for days as Russian and Ukrainian forces battle fiercely for control.

Before the Russian invasion it had a population of over 430,000.

Over two million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia invaded 12 days ago, according to the UN.