The deputy mayor of Mariupol, a port city in the south of Ukraine, has said Russians have not kept to an agreed ceasefire designed to allow citizens to flee the bombarded settlement
Ukrainians trying to flee their city during a ceasefire have had to seek shelter after Russian forces continued shelling, it has been reported.
The sound of explosions surrounded people fleeing the city of Mariupol during a five hour ceasefire this morning.
Less than two hours into it many had to turn back as it became clear that shelling had continued and fighting had broken out near the evacuation route.
“It’s not safe to go by this road because of these fights,” the city’s deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC.
When it became clear that the ceasefire, which had been bargained overnight, would not hold, people were urged to seek immediate shelter and wait for information.
“Right now I’m in Mariupol, I’m on the street. I can hear shelling every three to five minutes,” said Alexander, a 44-year-old engineer.
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“The green corridor is (nonsense). I can see cars of people who tried to flee and they are coming back.”
Mr Orlov said that fighting had broken out in a town along the road to Zaporizhzhia, where the fleeing citizens had been heading.
“Their shelling stopped for a little time, but then it continues,” the deputy mayor said, before saying that rockets had been deployed by the Russians.
He added: “We decided to move our citizens back because it is not safe on the street.”
An hour before the shelling and gun fire erupted, Russian troops had been urged not to break the ceasefire.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk warned the invading forces not to take advantage of the situation.
She said claims that the Russians were moving closer to Ukrainian positions in areas along the evacuation routes were being looked into.
“We are using this channel to evacuate civilians – women and children – as well as to deliver humanitarian cargo to those remaining,” she said.
“The whole world is watching.”
Civilians were meant to have safe access out of Mariupol between noon and 5pm Moscow time (9am and 2pm GMT), Russia’s RIA news agency quoted city authorities as saying.
Russia had said its troops, which have encircled the Azov Sea port city in Ukraine’s south, would stop firing and allow civilians to pass.
Russia also said it had planned a ceasefire to allow a humanitarian corridor out of Volnovakha – another besieged city in the south.
Médecins Sans Frontières called for a safe route out of the city and said that several members of its staff had been trapped in Mariupol.
“The situation is the same as in recent days,” they said in a statement.
“This night the shelling was harder and closer. We collected snow and rain water yesterday to have some utility water.
“We tried to get free water today but the queue was huge. We also wanted to get ‘social’ bread but it is not clear the schedule and the places of distribution.
“According to people, multiple grocery stores were destroyed by missiles and the remaining things were taken by people in desperate need.
“Still no power, water, heating and mobile connection. No one heard about any evacuation yet. Pharmacies are out of medicine.”
Christine Jamet, MSF director of operations, called today for safe routes to allow civilians to leave the city, including MSF staff and their families: “Civilians must not be trapped in a war zone,” Jamet said.
“People seeking safety must be able to do so, without fear of violence”.