An evacuation of civilians from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol had been postponed after city authorities said Russian forces were not respecting an agreed ceasefire.
Russia announced a partial halt to the fighting near Mariupol and Volnovakha on Saturday to allow safe passage for civilians fleeing fighting as it continues a broader offensive in Ukraine.
However, as the five-hour hiatus on fighting went into effect, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych announced that Russia was not observing the agreed ceasefire in certain areas, meaning civilians could not be evacuated. Mariupol’s city council have instead asked residents to return to shelters and wait for further information on evacuation.
Russia’s defence ministry said that nobody had made use of the two humanitarian corridors and accused Ukrainian “nationalists” of stopping civilians from leaving. It added that Russian forces had come under fire during the ceasefire.
With both Mariupol and Volnovakha encircled by Russian troops and facing heavy shelling, the Ukrainian government had hoped to evacuate around 200,000 people from the first city and a further 15,000 from the second.
The strategic southeastern port city of Mariupol, which sits between pro-Russian separatist territory in east Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, came under particular heavy bombardment on Friday night. Local authorities reported there was still no power, water, heating or mobile phone access, while food remains scarce.
Despite the planned ceasefire, Ukraine says Russian forces are still attempting to encircle the key cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, while aiming to establish a land bridge to Crimea.