The Russian Defense Ministry has announced that Russian and Donbass forces would observe a ceasefire surrounding the besieged Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol beginning at 2 p.m. Moscow time on Monday, allowing people to flee to safety.
Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, stated that military personnel will “retreat to a safe distance and allow people to leave the designated region in whichever direction they choose.”
Russian and Donbass troops mainly control the city, but a number of Ukrainian soldiers have been holed up in Azovstal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, claimed last week that roughly 1,000 civilians remained in the mill as well.
Mizintsev said there were “no obstacles” for civilians to leave the Azovstal plant, other than “the decision of Kiev and the commanders of nationalist units to use civilians as a human shield.”
Russia previously offered the Ukrainian fighters the opportunity to lay down their arms and surrender, but they refused.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called off the assault on the mill, opting for a blockade instead.
According to Mizintsev, a safe passage from Azovstal has remained open since March 21. However, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk accused Russia on Sunday of failing to guarantee a ceasefire in the area.
Mizintsev said that Russia would notify Vereshchuk on the matter. According to the MOD, information about the ceasefire and safe passage will be transmitted to the Ukrainians by radio every 30 minutes.
The battle for Mariupol has been raging for nearly two months, as Russian and Donbass forces completely surround the city.