Russia pauses operations at besieged Azovstal steelworks

Russia pauses operations at besieged Azovstal steelworks

The Russian military will stop its activities at the besieged plant for three days straight to allow the evacuation of civilians.

The Russian military has announced a new unilateral pause in its operations at the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol and promised to open humanitarian corridors for civilians who were holed up at the facility for three days straight. The steel plant remains the last stronghold under the control of Ukrainian servicemen and members of the Neo-Nazi Azov regiment in the city.

In accordance with the decision of Russia's leadership, we will open a humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal steel plant to evacuate civilians workers, women and children whose presence has been claimed by Kiev, the military said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The humanitarian corridor will be open for three days from Thursday to Saturday, operating from 8 am to 6 pm Moscow time every day. Civilians evacuating from the plant will be free to go anywhere if they want to evacuate into territories under Ukrainian or Russian control. On Sunday, several hundred civilians evacuated from bunkers in Azovstal were evacuated in a humanitarian effort facilitated by the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

Over the past two days, the plant of Azovstal has seen intensified fighting, prompting fears that Russian and Donetsk troops will launch an attack. The operation to storm the facility was called off on April 21 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered to blockade the plant instead.

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said the Russian military and its allies had merely been suppressing attempts to take up better positions amid the humanitarian pauses and that the Russian military and its allies have merely been suppressing attempts by the besieged units to take up better positions.

When militants get out of their guns, flare-ups occur. The attempts are being suppressed quite quickly, he said.

In late February, Russia attacked the neighboring state after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive is unprovoked and has denied that it plans to retake the two republics by force.