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Path to freedom: Ceasefire talks create 'humanitarian corridors'

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A Ukrainian negotiator says a second round of ceasefire talks with Russia has resulted in an understanding on creating humanitarian corridors in the areas of Ukraine where fighting is worst.

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Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the two sides envisaged a possible temporary ceasefire to allow civilians to leave.

“That is, not everywhere, but only in those places where the humanitarian corridors themselves will be located, it will be possible to cease fire for the duration of the evacuation,” he said.

They had also reached an understanding on the delivery of medicines and food to the places where the fiercest fighting was taking place.

The Russian delegation was led by presidential adviser Vladimir Medinsky while the Ukrainian delegation was headed by Davyd Arakhamia, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s ruling party.

While the Russian representatives wore suits, the Ukrainians were clad in olive-green military jumpers.

It was the first time the two sides had agreed any form of progress on any issue since Russia invaded Ukraine a week ago.

But Podolyak said the outcome had fallen short of Ukraine’s hopes.

“To our great regret, we did not get the results we were counting on,” he said, without elaborating.

“The only thing I can say is that we discussed the humanitarian aspect in sufficient detail, because quite a lot of cities are now surrounded. There is a dramatic situation with medicines, food, and evacuation,” Podolyak said.

A third round of ceasefire talks between the two sides is due to take place early next week, Belarusian state news agency Belta quoted Podolyak as saying on Thursday while Russian negotiators said more talks will likely be held shortly.

Medinsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adviser who led the Russian delegation in the talks on Thursday in Belarus near the Polish border, said the parties’ “positions are absolutely clear, they are written down point by point,” including issues related to a political settlement of the conflict.

He added without elaboration that “mutual understanding was found on part of them”.

He confirmed that Russia and Ukraine reached a tentative agreement to create safe corridors for civilians to exit besieged cities and observe local ceasefires in areas where they will be created.

Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian MP who was part of the Russian delegation in talks, said that the details of safe corridors will need to be worked out quickly.

He said that the next round of talks could lead to agreements, some of which would need to be ratified by Russian and Ukrainian parliaments.

In Moscow, Putin, brushing aside worldwide condemnation of the invasion, said the military operation was going according to plan.

Ukrainian soldiers and civilians kept up their resistance to the invading force and the capital Kyiv and other main cities remained in their hands on Thursday evening.

But the humanitarian crisis deepened, with the United Nations saying one million people had now fled their homes.

Those who stayed were enduring shelling and rockets strikes on several cities, often on residential areas.

Swathes of central Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city with 1.5 million people, have been blasted into rubble.

Zelenskiy said earlier Ukraine and Russia could find a way out of the war if the Kremlin treated Ukraine on an equal footing and came to talks with a will to negotiate in good faith.

“There are things in which some compromises must be found so that people do not die but there are things in which there are no compromises,” Zelenskiy said in a televised interview, saying he was willing to have an open conversation with Putin.

Putin remained outwardly oblivious to the almost universal global condemnation of his actions and to the international economic and financial sanctions aimed at bringing Russia’s economy to its knees.

Russia’s military operations in Ukraine were going according to plan, he said in televised comments, praising its soldiers as heroes.

with reporting from AP and DPA

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