LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia is trying to manipulate French President Emmanuel Macron and other Western leaders by demanding that any humanitarian corridors in Ukraine exit through Russia or Belarus, a senior Ukrainian official said on Monday.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine was calling on Russia to agree to a ceasefire from Monday morning to allow Ukrainians to evacuate towards the western Ukrainian city of Lviv instead.
Ukraine received Russia’s proposal early on Monday morning after Macron held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vereshchuk told a televised briefing.
“I hope that French President Emmanuel Macron understands that his name and sincere desire to help … in reality is being used and manipulated by the Russian Federation,” she said.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of shelling areas designated as humanitarian corridors to prevent people escaping cities that are under attack.
Russia’s defence ministry said the new “corridors” would be opened from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Sumy, as well as the port city of Mariupol. Moscow has blamed Ukraine for the failure so far of humanitarian corridors and denies targeting civilians.
The two sides were preparing for a third round of talks at an undisclosed location on Monday. Ukraine has played down the prospects of any breakthroughs.
About 200,000 people remained trapped in Mariupol, most sleeping underground to escape more than six days of shelling by Russian forces that has cut off food, water, power and heating, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Russia’s invasion has been condemned around the world, sent more than 1.5 million Ukrainians fleeing abroad, and triggered sweeping sanctions that have isolated Russia in a way never before experienced by such a large economy.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; writing by Matthias Williams, editing by Timothy Heritage)