Over a million people have streamed out of Ukraine into neighboring nations, the UN refugee agency said Sunday, making it the worst such crisis in Europe since World War II. The Polish prime minister’s office said 922,400 people had crossed its border with Ukraine since fighting began 11 days ago.
That update came as a second attempt in as many days was made to allow residents to leave the embattled port city of Mariupol, where people have been living without gas and water for several days. The second evacuation effort failed, as well, a Ukrainian official said.
Earlier Sunday, Ukrainian officials warned that Russian forces could be moving to seize the dam of a hydroelectric power station north of Kyiv. The threat to the power plant is part of what Ukrainian officials believe is an effort by Russian forces to control infrastructure. The most notable example came late last week, when a fire broke out at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant after Russian forces shelled the area.
Defense officials in the United Kingdom said they believe Russia is targeting populated areas in multiple locations, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol in an effort to break Ukrainian morale, according to a statement released early Sunday.
“Russia has previously used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based munitions,” the statement said. It also credited the scale and strength of the Ukrainian resistance for targeting Russian supply lines and slowing the advance of ground forces.
“There is a realistic possibility that Russia is now attempting to conceal fuel trucks as regular support trucks to minimise losses,” the statement read.
Ukraine and Russia will engage in talks aimed at negotiating a cease-fire and safe passage for civilian evacuations on Monday, a Ukraine official said, after the first evacuation of the southeastern city of Mariupol was halted in violation of a cease-fire.
A Ukrainian official says a second attempt to evacuate civilians from a southern city under siege for a week has failed due to continued Russian shelling. Evacuations from the port city of Mariupol were scheduled to begin at noon local time during a 10 a.m.-9 p.m. local cease-fire, Ukrainian military authorities said.
Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the planned evacuations along designated humanitarian corridors were halted because of an ongoing assault.
“There can be no ‘green corridors’ because only the sick brain of the Russians decides when to start shooting and at whom,“ he said.
A similar cease-fire planned for Mariupol and the nearby city of Volnovakha collapsed Saturday, trapping residents under more shelling and aerial bombardment by Russian forces.