Moscow's surrender window begins-UPDATED

Moscow
# 17 April 2022 08:23 (UTC +04:00)

Russia has said it will guarantee the lives of Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol who surrender in the coming hours, APA reports citing BBC.

From 06:00 Moscow time (03:00 GMT or 04:00 BST) and for several hours after, Russian forces have said they will allow soldiers to leave the stronghold of the Azovstal steelworks - provided they leave their weapons and ammunition behind.

Those who do will be treated in line with the Geneva convention on prisoners of war, a statement from Russia's defence ministry said.

The statement, issued hours ago, said Russian forces have been broadcasting details of the deal to their Ukrainian counterparts every 30 minutes overnight.

If they accept, Russia says, Russian forces will raise red flags at 06:00 and Ukrainians should raise white flags around the perimeter of the steelworks.

Ukrainian officials have given no sign that they plan to accept the offer.

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Russia told Ukrainian forces fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol to lay down their arms starting 6 a.m. Moscow time (0300 GMT) on Sunday to save their lives, APA reports citing Reuters.

Thirty minutes after the ultimatum, there were no immediate reports of activity in the strategic southeastern port. Air raid sirens sounded across the country, a regular occurrence, but there were no reports of any strikes.

Russia's Defence Ministry said its troops had cleared the urban area of Mariupol and only a small contingent of Ukrainian fighters remained inside a steelworks in the city on Saturday.

Moscow's claim to have all but taken control of Mariupol, scene of the war's heaviest fighting and worst humanitarian catastrophe, could not be independently verified. It would be the first major city to have fallen to Russian forces since the Feb. 24 invasion.

"Taking into account the catastrophic situation that has developed at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, as well as being guided by purely humane principles, the Russian Armed Forces offer the militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries from 06:00 (Moscow time) on April 17, 2022, to stop any hostilities and lay down their arms," the defence ministry said in a statement. read more

"All who lay down their arms are guaranteed that their lives will be spared," it said, adding that the defenders could leave the plant by 10 a.m. without arms or ammunition.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv.

"The situation is very difficult" in Mariupol, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Ukrainska Pravda news portal. "Our soldiers are blocked, the wounded are blocked. There is a humanitarian crisis... Nevertheless, the guys are defending themselves."

As Moscow launched long-range missile attacks across the country following the sinking of its Black Sea flagship, Moscow said its warplanes had struck a tank repair factory in Kyiv on Saturday. An explosion was heard and smoke rose over the southeastern Darnytskyi district. The mayor said at least one person was killed and medics were fighting to save others. read more

The Ukrainian military said Russian warplanes that took off from Belarus had fired missiles at the Lviv region near the Polish border and four cruise missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defences.

The western city, relatively unscathed so far, has served as a haven for refugees and international aid agencies.

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