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Russia-Ukraine war: People flee embattled Ukrainian cities via safe corridors


Lviv: Buses crammed with people, who are fleeing the Russian onslaught, left two embattled cities via safe corridors on Tuesday; among them were 694 Indian students and some Chinese nationals stranded in Sumy. With that, the mass migration from Ukraine has touched 2 million.

Their buses stopped briefly because of shooting when they were crossing the Ukrainian checkpoint. Russian military vehicles showed up at that moment and opened sporadic fire but it was not aimed at the buses, the head of Sumy administration Dmytro Zhyvytskiy told the BBC. The Russian column of armoured vehicles quickly left the area, he added. It is not clear whether anyone was hurt.

The Indian evacuation from Sumy was confirmed by MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. "We are happy to inform that we have been able to move out all Indian students from Sumy. They are currently en route to Poltava, from where they will board trains to western Ukraine. Flights under Operation Ganga are being prepared to bring them home."

Moscow had offered to transport them to Russia but there were few takers.

To add to the woes of mass migration, the weather has turned extremely cold in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, making the journey for those fleeing the Russian invasion "incredibly harsh", says Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Speaking from Warsaw, she told BBC News that "tired and traumatised" women and children were queuing for up to 24 hours as they waited to cross into Poland. She said many children were travelling with neighbours or distant relatives, or being left at the border by parents who then turned back. The conditions are likely to get worse in the coming days as temperatures plunge to -20C.

The Russian invasion -- the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II -- has resulted in siege to cities that are running low on food, water and medicine.

Previous attempts to lead civilians to safety have crumbled with renewed attacks. But, on Tuesday, a video posted by Ukrainian officials showed buses packed with people moving along a snowy road from the eastern city of Sumy and others leaving the besieged southern port of Mariupol. It was not clear how long the effort would last.

“The Ukrainian city of Sumy was given a green corridor, after which the first stage of evacuation began,” the Ukrainian state communications agency tweeted. These buses are headed to other cities in Ukraine, but many people have chosen to flee the country instead.

Safa Msehli, a spokesperson for the UN's International Organisation for Migration, tweeted that 2 million have fled the country, including at least 100,000 people who are not Ukrainian.

With the invasion moving into its second week, Russian troops have made significant advances in southern Ukraine but are stalled in some other regions. Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers have fortified the capital, Kyiv, with hundreds of checkpoints and barricades designed to thwart a takeover.

A steady rain of shells and rockets fell on other population centres, including the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where the mayor reported heavy artillery fire.

“We can't even gather the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn't stop day or night,” Mayor Anatol Fedoruk said. “Dogs are ripping apart the bodies on the city streets. It's a nightmare.”

In one of the most desperate cities, Mariupol, an estimated 200,000 people — nearly half the population of 430,000 — is hoping against hope that it will be able to make good its escape.

The evacuation was not without hiccups: Russia again breached the ceasefire to shell evacuation routes out of Mariupol; the latest ceasefire violation came as President Volodymyr Zelensky said a child had died of thirst in the blockaded port city. On Monday, a bridge across the Irpin River in the outskirts of Kyiv - a key evacuation route - was also destroyed.

The corridors offered by Moscow have been dismissed by Kyiv as little more than a PR stunt because routes, most of which lead to Russia or Belarus, have come under attack by the Kremlin's forces.

Ukrainian President Zelensky accused Moscow of 'cynicism', saying its troops have laid mines across the routes and blown up buses intended to be used as transport.

On Monday, he rejected Russian proposals to evacuate civilians into what he described as 'occupied territory,' and said Moscow's forces were 'bombing the life out of everything that is moving' which is running low on food, water and medicine amid the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II.

K Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says Russian troops have not progressed as they hoped and are now "getting more desperate".

UK, US SET TO BAN RUSSIAN OIL

UK is all 'set to ban' Russian oil imports. This has led to bedlam at the petrol pumps in Britain: Large queues could be seen as prices jumped and were hissing close to £2 a litre. This would make commuting unaffordable for half on the drivers on the road, said western media reports. Global oil prices are at highest level for 14 years this week -- spiking to $140 per barrel before settling at around $127. The UK is planning to buy more oil from the US, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East instead, but wants nine months to sort out the deals. There will not be a ban on Russian gas - but this is still under discussion within the Government. US President Joe Biden has decided he will ban Russian oil and gas immediately.

The Russian deputy PM has warned that Moscow could retaliate against European sanctions by cutting off natural gas to the bloc.

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