Moscow: Russia is ready for a humanitarian ceasefire at the Azovstal steelworks in Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol and is ready to allow civilians to leave the plant, “if Ukrainian soldiers surrender,” international media reported on Friday, citing Russia’s defence ministry.
The Defence ministry said Russia was “ready at any moment” to announce a “humanitarian pause” for the evacuation of civilians, said AFP. The ceasefire would start with the “raising of white flags” by Ukraine’s forces, “along the entire perimeter or in certain areas of Azovstal,” the ministry added.
“If such signs are found in any part of the Azovstal metallurgical plant, Russia’s Armed Forces…will immediately stop any hostilities and provide a safe exit,” it said.
According to the ministry, civilians will be escorted to either territories controlled by Ukraine or to Russia “at the evacuees’ own discretion”. It said the Ukrainian soldiers, who have surrendered will be “guaranteed” their life, reports The Guardian.
The Mariupol Mayor on Friday said “one clear day of ceasefire” is needed to evacuate civilians sheltering in the steel plant.
Hundreds of soldiers and civilians are believed to be in the massive plant that has become the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his troops to seal off the plant, so “not even a fly can escape”. Putin also claimed that Mariupol has been “liberated” by Moscow.