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Second attempt at humanitarian corridor in embattled Ukrainian city

A new attempt at a temporary ceasefire was under way in an embattled Ukrainian city on Sunday with the aim of allowing desperate residents to safely flee after days of intense Russian bombardment.

A new attempt at a temporary ceasefire was under way in an embattled Ukrainian city on Sunday with the aim of allowing desperate residents to safely flee after days of intense Russian bombardment.

The pause in hostilities was limited to the south-eastern port city of Mariupol and the evacuations were said to have begun at noon (1000 GMT). The ceasefire was scheduled to last until 9 pm, said regional Ukrainian administration official Pavlo Kirilenko.

According to pro-Russian separatists, some 300 people were initially able to leave. The information could not be verified and no figures have yet been provided by Ukrainian officials.

A similar effort in Mariupol and nearby Volnovakha quickly fell apart on Saturday, stranding residents who had hoped to leave by private vechicles and organized bus journeys.

Russia’s aerial attack had continued in Mariupol through Saturday night. Many people are living without electricity, water and heat, while running short on food and other essentials.

Mariupol is a strategic city located in the Donetsk region, parts of which are under the control of Moscow-backed separatists and Russian forces.

The capture of Mariupol – a city of some 440,000 – would be a significant win for Moscow, as Russian troops would then begin to be able to join up with their counterparts elsewhere in Donetsk and in the Crimean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, fighting continued elsewhere in Ukraine, with the Ukrainian army warning that Russian forces were aiming to seize the dam of a key hydroelectric power station south of the capital Kiev.

In a report issued early Sunday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Russia planned to seize the dam of the Kaniv hydroelectric power station, located some 150 kilometres south of Kiev on the Dnipro River.

So far, Russian forces have destroyed, attacked or captured several energy infrastructure facilities in Ukraine, including Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

Russian units were trying everything to penetrate the south-western outskirts of the capital Kiev, the report said.

Air raid sirens were triggered in the city several times on Saturday night.

Russian troops also attempted to approach the highway near Kiev International Airport, according to the report.

In the direction of Kozelets, which is around 70 kilometres north-east of Kiev, the movement of 100 units of weapons and other military equipment, including rocket-launchers in particular, was observed.

The main focus of the Russian troops continues to be the encirclement of the cities of Kiev, Kharkiv in the east and Mykolaiv in the south.

The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported on Saturday that 194 people had been killed in the Kharkiv region since the war began on February 24, including 126 civilians. This information could not be independently verified.

The head of the Ukrainian delegation for talks with Russia, David Arachamija, was hopeful that a humanitarian corridor out of the eastern city of Kharkiv could be opened on Sunday.

Sumy and Lebedin in north-eastern Ukraine continued to come under Russian attack Saturday, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, head of Sumy’s regional administration, said on his Telegram channel.

Russian planes destroyed a a warehouse for food, building materials and a car park, he said. A combined heating and power plant was destroyed on Friday.

Meanwhile, efforts to mediate in the conflict continued. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, after visiting Moscow and Berlin, spoke again with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, his office confirmed.

It was the third telephone conversation between the two politicians within 24 hours, Bennett’s office said. No further details were given.

Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday, the first Western leader to visit the internationally isolated Kremlin chief since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Bennett then travelled on to Berlin, where he discussed the conflict with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Both sides agreed to intensify their security co-operation.

Israel is being discussed as a potential mediator in the conflict. According to media reports, Zelensky has asked Bennett to host negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Israel.

Upon his return from Germany, Bennett told his cabinet on Sunday: “As you all know, the situation on the ground [in Ukraine] is not good. The human suffering is great and is liable to be much greater.”

“Even if the chance is not great — as soon as there is even a small opening, and we have access to all sides and the capability — I see this as our moral obligation to make every effort,” Bennett said.

Sources close to French President Emmanuel Macron said he was expecting to speak to Putin by phone. The two leaders have been in regular contact for weeks.

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