(Bloomberg) – The Russian invasion has pushed more than 1.7 million people across Ukraine’s borders in what the United Nations calls Europe’s fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II
Ukraine dismissed Moscow’s offer to create humanitarian corridors from several bombarded cities on Monday after it emerged that exit routes would lead refugees into Russia or Belarus.
The Russian proposal of safe passage for people from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy came after terrified Ukrainian civilians came under fire in previous failed ceasefire attempts.
Violence raged 12 days into the war, even as a third round of peace negotiations was starting on Monday and the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers eyed talks in Turkey later this week.
The Russian invasion has pushed more than 1.7 million people across Ukraine’s borders in what the United Nations calls Europe’s fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II, and sparked fears of a wider conflict.
International sanctions intended to punish Moscow have done little to slow the invasion, and Washington said it was now discussing a ban on Russian oil imports with Europe.
Oil prices soared to near a 14-year high on the developments while stock markets plunged.
As international pressure mounted over horrifying scenes of civilians cut down while fleeing, Moscow’s Defence Ministry announced plans for humanitarian corridors and said a “regime of silence” had started at 0700 GMT.
But several routes led into Russia or its ally Belarus, raising questions over the safety of those who might use them.
“This is not an acceptable option,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Russia’s negotiator at the peace talks, Vladimir Medinsky, in return accused Ukraine of the “war crime” of blocking the corridors.
Expectations remained low for the talks, which were due to begin at 1400 GMT on the Belarus-Poland border, and which Mr. Medinsky said would focus on evacuation routes.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday, accused Mr. Putin of hypocrisy and cynicism over the offer.
“All this is not serious, it is moral and political cynicism, which I find intolerable,” he told LCI television in an interview.