The country’s defence ministry said on Saturday that it went into “silent mode” and its units had stopped firing to allow humanitarian corridors to operate for residents of the two Ukrainian cities beginning 7am Saturday, reported state-run media.
“From 1000am Moscow time [0700 GMT], the Russian side declares a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha,” the Russian ministry was quoted as saying by the country’s media.
Mariupol is located in the country’s southeast, while Volnovakha is located roughly 65km north of the strategic port city.
The defence ministry, soon after it announced the temporary ceasefire, said the country’s “broad offensive” will continue in Ukraine.
A top Mariupol official said the ceasefire will last until 2pm GMT, with an evacuation corridor starting at 9am GMT, reported the Associated Press.
The news agency quoted Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk military-civil administration that includes Mariupol, as saying that the humanitarian corridor would extend to Zaporizhzhia.
The ceasefire announcement comes after Mariupol’s mayor was quoted as saying in a message from his Telegram account by news agency AFP that officials were looking to get the city “out of the blockade” caused by invading Russian troops.
“For now, we are looking for solutions to humanitarian problems and all possible ways to get Mariupol out of the blockade,” Vadim Boychenko was quoted as saying in the message.
The UK’s defence ministry said in an update on Twitter that Ukraine continues to hold Mariupol, along with Kharkiv and Chernihiv.
Oleksiy Danilov, who heads Ukraine’s security council, had earlier said Russia should create humanitarian corridors to allow women, children and the elderly a safe passage from violence.
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky had, in a late night message, delivered an emotional attack on Nato, for refusing to enforce a no-fly zone and accusing it of leaving Ukraine’s people to die as a result.
“All the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you, because of your weakness, because of your lack of unity,” the president had said.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg had explained on Friday that enforcing a no-fly zone would entail shooting down Russian planes from the sky and risk the start of “a full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries”.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.