The third round of ceasefire talks between Russia and Ukraine was held in Belarus on Monday, March 7. Ukraine called the proposal an “unethical stunt,” while Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky stated that their expectations had not been fulfilled.
According to CBS, the ceasefire was due to take effect on Monday morning to allow a safe passage out of Ukraine for Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Sumy civilians. Ukraine rejected the proposal because some of the evacuation routes would funnel civilians into Russia and Belarus. These are unlikely destinations for refugees who prefer haven in nations to the west and south of Ukraine.
Now on the 12th day of the war, it is estimated that 200,000 civilians are still trying to flee the violence. There is little hope that the third round of talks will lead to any breakthroughs as previous attempts have collapsed. Russian shelling has intensified, and many civilian targets have been destroyed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on Sunday, March 6, “Instead of humanitarian corridors, they can only make bloody ones.”
Vladimir Putin has vowed that Russian attacks will halt “only if Kyiv ceases hostilities” and fulfill “the well-known demands of Russia.” This comes after Russian forces experienced a much stronger resistance from Ukraine than expected from the first day of the invasion. Analysis suggests that the focus on civilian targets is an effort to break Ukrainian morale. British military officials have compared the tactics to those used by Russia in Chechnya and Syria.
Conditions are grim in Mariupol, a city of 430,000 people. An 11-hour ceasefire was initially agreed upon, but Russian attacks quickly closed evacuation routes, and only a handful of residents managed to escape before the city was destroyed. Those left behind face a critically low supply of food, water, and medicine. Resident Yelena Zamay, who has fled to eastern Ukraine, described the grim conditions as having “no communication, no water, no gas, no light. There was nothing.”
On Sunday, a senior U.S. defense official confirmed that 95% of Russian forces surrounding Ukraine had entered the country. The military campaign is advancing to isolate Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv but meeting formidable Ukrainian resistance.
The war has also created a refugee crisis that has not been seen since World War II. An estimated 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine, with crowds of thousands waiting at international borders to enter neighboring countries such as Poland. Ukraine Interior Ministry adviser summarized the danger these people were in when he said, “There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting at whom.”