An elderly lady walks on the road as damages to a house from artillery shell are seen in Vrubivka in the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Feb 17, 2022. (VADIM GHIRDA/AP)
MOSCOW - Russian forces will observe truce in Ukraine starting 10 am Moscow time (0700 GMT) on Saturday to facilitate the evacuation of civilians via humanitarian corridors, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced.
The ceasefire will be held from 10 am to 5 pm Moscow time (0700-1400 GMT) and the evacuation will begin at noon (0900 GMT), RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a message of Mariupol city authorities
As was agreed by the Ukrainian side, the humanitarian corridors will allow the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha in south Ukraine, the ministry said, without disclosing how long the ceasefire will last.
The ceasefire will be held from 10 am to 5 pm Moscow time (0700-1400 GMT) and the evacuation will begin at noon (0900 GMT), RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a message of Mariupol city authorities.
Those who want to leave can take municipal buses from three locations or use private transport, it said.
The fleet must strictly follow the Mariupol-Nikolske-Rozivka-Polohy-Orikhiv-Zaporizhzhia route, it added.
More than 200,000 people from Mariupol and over 15,000 from Volnovakha are expected to be evacuated, TASS news agency reported, quoting a senior Ukrainian official.
During their second round of peace talks on Thursday, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed on the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the exit of civilians and on a temporary cessation of hostilities along the evacuation routes.
Photo taken on March 3, 2022 shows a view of the second round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations at the Belovezhskaya Pushcha on the Belarus-Poland border. (BELTA NEWS AGENCY VIA XINHUA)
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow wishes to continue dialogue with Ukraine and wants peace, provided that all Russia's security demands are met.
According to Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, the third round of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia may take place on Saturday or Sunday
3rd round of talks eyed
In a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin expressed his hope that Kyiv will take a "reasonable and constructive stance" during a third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Scholz said that his country and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will not play an active role in the Ukraine conflict.
"It is absolutely clear to us that there will be no NATO military involvement in this conflict," Scholz said at a press conference after visiting the Bundeswehr's operations command. "We will rule that out with all that we do."
He also said it would be necessary to ensure that no attacks occurred on NATO territory. Efforts to secure the allies' borders with Russia and Ukraine had been stepped up, Scholz added. "But they are purely defensive and they remain on NATO territory."
According to Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, the third round of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia may take place on Saturday or Sunday.
Smoke rises from the damaged training building of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on March 4, 2022. (HANDOUT / UKRAINE NATIONAL NUCLEAR ENERGY GENERATING COMPANY ENERGOATOM / AFP)
Podolyak said that both Russia and Ukraine take a tough position, so negotiations would be difficult. And yet the talks will still be carried out.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that his country and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will not play an active role in the Ukraine conflict
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will not make any concessions that could "humiliate" Ukraine's resistance, Podolyak added.
Nuclear power plant captured
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities said Friday that Russia's armed forces has captured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest one in Europe, which was later confirmed by Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
The plant was seized following a shelling which caused a fire at the plant, the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine said in a statement on Facebook.
Currently, Ukrainian personnel continued to operate the plant, the agency said.
Earlier on Friday, a fire broke out in a training building outside the plant, which the mayor of the nearby town of Energodar claimed was "a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units" of the nuclear power plant.
The Russian defense ministry refuted the claim, saying that the fire was the result of a provocation by Kyiv aimed at accusing Russia of creating a hotbed of radioactive contamination.
People gather in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (EFREM LUKATSKY / AP)
A Chinese envoy on Friday called on parties to the Ukraine conflict to act with caution and work together, with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to ensure the safety of relevant nuclear facilities inside Ukraine.
China pays close attention to the latest developments in Ukraine and expresses its concern over the relevant reports about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, said Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations
China pays close attention to the latest developments in Ukraine and expresses its concern over the relevant reports about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, said Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations.
The Ukrainian parliament called for the introduction of peacekeeping forces to Ukraine, the parliament's First Deputy Chairman Oleksandr Korniyenko said on Friday.
ALSO READ: Ukraine officially appeals for EU membership
The parliament also called for the immediate introduction of "a no-fly zone" over the territory of Ukraine.
1m Ukrainians evacuated
Ukrainian State Railways have evacuated more than 1 million Ukrainians since the start of the conflict with Russia on Feb 24, the Ukrainian UNN news agency reported on Friday.
Most people were evacuated from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the eastern city of Kharkiv and the southern city of Zaporizhzhia to the cities in western Ukraine.
According to the agency, women, children, and the elderly get priority during the evacuation, and special evacuation trains are free of charge.
Impact of sanctions
Also on Friday, Finland Chamber of Commerce published a survey saying that the sanctions imposed by some Western countries against Russia in some way will affect up to 90 percent of Finnish export companies.
The impact of sanctions on companies' operations was generally seen as negative. About 85 percent of companies responded to the negative effects of sanctions. Only 3.6 percent of companies thought the sanctions would have a positive impact on the company's business.
A quarter of the companies that responded to the survey said there could be a significant impact on their business.
HONG KONG NEWS