Moscow says it will let Ukrainian civilians flee — to Russia

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(Reuters) – Ukrainian officials said a Russian air strike hit a bread factory in northern Ukraine, killing at least 13 civilians, while talks between Kyiv and Moscow made little progress towards easing the conflict.

The strike on the factory in Makariv, just west of the capital Kyiv, took place as the number of refugees fleeing across borders from the Russian assault on Ukraine passed 1.7 million, according to United Nations figures.

Russian forces pressed on with their seiges and bombing of Ukrainian cities on the 11th day of the war. In the encircled southern port city of Mariupol, hundreds of thousands of people remained trapped without food and water under regular bombardments.

“They’re bombing the life out of everything that is moving,” Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

Reuters was not able to verify the reported bakery attack but local emergency services said the bodies of at least 13 civilians were recovered from rubble after it was hit.

Five people were rescued of the 30 believed to have been there at the time. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Zelenskiy, speaking on a zoom call with a Jewish group in the United States, said: “The bakery was eliminated.

And this is happening in different cities.”

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, police said a further 10 people had been killed over the past day, taking the total death toll there from Russian bombardment to 143 since the start of the invasion.

It was not possible to verify the toll.

After the third attempt to ease the bloodshed at talks in Belarus, a Ukrainian negotiator said that although small progress on agreeing logistics for the evacuation of civilians had been made, things remained largely unchanged.

“As of now, there are no results that significantly improve the situation,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video statement, while Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky, told journalists the talks were “not easy”.

“We hope that from tomorrow these corridors will finally work,” he said.

A fourth round of talks will take place very soon, Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky told Russian state television.

Russia had offered Ukrainians escape routes to Russia and Belarus, its close ally, early on Monday after weekend evacuation ceasefire attempts failed. A spokesperson for Zelenskiy said the Russian proposal was “completely immoral”.

The day before, Reuters journalists had witnessed people trying to flee the town of Irpin near Kyiv getting caught in Russian shelling.

On Monday people picked their way over the twisted ruins of a large bridge in Irpin, with river water rushing just beneath them.

“It’s like a disaster. The city is almost ruined and the district where I’m living (there are) no houses which were not bombed,” a young woman leaving with her children told Reuters.

Russia calls the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove leaders it describes as neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a transparent pretext for an invasion to conquer a nation of 44 million people.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters Moscow would halt operations if Ukraine ceased fighting, amended its constitution to declare neutrality,

and recognised Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the independence of regions held by Russian-backed separatists.

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