Russian military fires on “green corridors” in Ukraine. How is Russia once again violating agreements and international law?

As a result of the Russian invasion, cities in eastern and southern Ukraine are under fire, and people have been unable to leave shelters for more than a week, stranded without food, water and medicine. This is true of Okhtyrka, Mariupol and smaller cities and towns around Kyiv, where fierce fighting is taking place.

Those places have already reached the state of a humanitarian catastrophe. To avoid deaths, Ukraine and Russia have agreed on “green corridors.” Yet, Russian troops continue shelling, preventing civilians from leaving shelters safely. In five sections, we will explain what is happening to those places now.

1. Where is there humanitarian crisis now?

Kyiv oblast (Vorzel-Hostomel-Irpin-Bucha). The Russian occupier is brutally attacking these places: Irpin civilians came under fire twice while attempting to evacuate, and 8 people died from the shelling in one day alone. During the third attempt, people were leaving the city on foot. Irpin is a completely peaceful civilian city with no military bases, airfields or other military facilities. The Russian military bombed the city indiscriminately, destroying homes and infrastructure.

On March 7, Russian occupiers shot the head of the Hostomel community Yurii Prylypko and his colleagues dead when they were giving out bread and medication to people. In Vorzel, 50 people are sitting in the basement of the school #5 without food or water. Two gravely injured children died in Bucha because they could not receive medical care. In addition, in the cities near Kyiv, there are about 70 babies in bomb shelters, some of them wounded. The occupying forces do not allow doctors and volunteers to visit the children.

Irpin residents waiting for evacuation from shelled city under a bridge

Okhtyrka in the Sumy region. As of the morning of March 7, the city of was left without heating due to the infrastructure destruction by the Russian military. The aggressor troops also bombed warehouses with food and building materials, as well as a parking of fuel trucks. Fierce battles were taking place there from the very beginning of the war, since the city is located just 55 km from the Russian border. As of now, people have been sheltered for 10 days now, without food, water or medication, since Russian troops threaten to shoot them if they leave the seized buildings. Local authorities are now considering ways to evacuate people, as houses have already turned into a cold stone trap without water, light, and power.  

Okhtyrka streets after Russian invasion (Sumy oblast prosecutor’s office)

Mariupol and the South of Ukraine.  For almost a week now, the city has been without power, water and heating. A six-year-old girl died from dehydration, and this is just one of the many tragic stories of Mariupol, which has been surviving the blockade for eight days now. The Russian occupiers destroyed all base stations, leaving almost no mobile reception in the city and mining roads for civilian vehicles or humanitarian convoys.

2. What is a humanitarian catastrophe, and what does it look like in Ukraine?

This is a phenomenon caused by a military conflict or natural disasters. Requests for help began to appear on social networks and the media: people remain in basements and bomb shelters, running out of food, water and medicine.

To save people, Ukraine started negotiating with Russia and agreed on “green corridors,” particularly in Mariupol, Kherson, Irpin in Kyiv region, and Volnovakha in the east. It has not yet been possible to create a corridor in Okhtyrka.

Woman with baby hiding in a bomb shelter / Yevhen Malolietka

“Green corridors” are stipulated by standards of international law, particularly the UN General Assembly Resolution. It is normal world practice to allow civilians to leave areas of active hostilities.

3. What happened to the green corridors in Ukraine?

The Red Cross was the guarantor of the ceasefire; however, on March 5, Russian troops fired on a green corridor from Mariupol, and on the 6th they did it again, preventing civilians from receiving aid and leaving the besieged city. Russian troops also disrupted green corridors from Irpin and Kherson.

A recent example. On March 6, the evacuation convoy with the local population was unable to leave Mariupol: the Russians began regrouping their forces and started heavy shelling of the city. It is extremely dangerous to evacuate people in such conditions. The convoy with humanitarian cargo did not reach Mariupol.

4. Why did the “green corridors” in Ukraine fail?

“Green corridors” do not play into Russia’s hands. The occupying forces planned to block humanitarian aid for two reasons: first, it spoils the cargo itself (at least the food), and second, it enables them to bring their own aid to the region and record its distribution on camera for Russian media. That is, they can create a picture of a benevolent master feeding the civilian population out of kindness. 

This “operation” was planned in Kherson, for starters. However, true Ukrainians (as opposed to Russia-hired actors) went to the delivery point and disrupted the occupiers’ campaign.

In addition, according to the Security Service of Ukraine, Russian troops prepared provocative shelling of their own territory to later blame it on Ukrainian military forces. Russian propaganda websites also claimed that it was the Armed Forces of Ukraine preventing Irpin civilians from evacuating and taking them hostage. However, as of the evening of March 7, it was thanks to the heroism of the Ukrainian military and volunteers that more than 2,000 people were evacuated from Irpin.

On the night of March 7, Ukraine received a letter from the aggressor country proposing to open humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians in Belarus and Russia. Of course, Ukraine considers such a proposal unacceptable and further emphasizes its vision of possible ways to evacuate people inside Ukraine.

5. This is not the first time that Russia has violated international law

The Russian Federation already has war crimes in its history. Staying on the subject of Ukraine, we can remember the battles for Ilovaisk (east of Ukraine) in 2014. At that time, the Ukrainian military was supposed to leave through the humanitarian corridor, but the Russian side did not comply with the agreements, which resulted in more than 360 Ukrainian soldiers dying. 

According to Yuri Rud, head of the Department for Supervision of Criminal Proceedings in Armed Conflict Crimes, the Department’s experts believe that Russia had planned the massacre near Ilovaisk in advance. Back then, Russian troops shot down unarmed Ukrainian soldiers at the march, using the all-too-familiar “Grads,” artillery, armored vehicles and tanks.

Peaceful city of Mariupol on fire because of Russian occupiers / Yevhen Malolietka

A similar method of “liberation of the Ukrainian territories from Nazis” can be observed today as well. However, there is hope for a different ending: The Hague Tribunal has launched an investigation into the crimes of the Russian Federation against Ukrainian civilians.The Russian Federation already has war crimes in its history. Staying on the subject of Ukraine, we can remember the battles for Ilovaisk (east of Ukraine) in 2014. At that time, the Ukrainian military was supposed to leave through the humanitarian corridor, but the Russian side did not comply with the agreements, which resulted in more than 360 Ukrainian soldiers dying. 

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