Russian President Vladimir Putin called on self-defence forces in Ukraine to open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow besieged Ukrainian troops to retreat.
“I call on the self-defence forces to open a humanitarian corridor for the Ukrainian troops who are surrounded, so as to avoid unnecessary casualties and to give them the opportunity to withdraw from the zone of operations,” Putin said in a statement issued after midnight Thursday.
Encircled Ukrainian fighters have been engaged in a desperate fight for survival in the town Ilovaysk for over a week as self-defence forces, which had been on the retreat, staged a swift counter-offensive.
Putin praised defenders of “Novorossiya”, or New Russia, for achieving considerable successes in cutting off Kiev’s military operation which posed a deadly threat to the population of the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine where most of the fighting has occurred.
The defenders seized swathes of territory from Ukrainian government forces in a lightning counter-offensive, dramatically turning the tide in the four-month conflict.
Putin called on Kiev to “immediately halt military action, cease fire, sit down at the negotiating table and speak with representatives of the Donbass, and solve all of the problems which have built up exclusively by peaceful means”.
The Russian president called on the self-defence forces to provide wounded Ukrainian soldiers with medical help and said Russia is “ready and will provide humanitarian aid to the people of the Donbass who are suffering from this humanitarian catastrophe”.
Russia last week sent into eastern Ukraine a convoy of more than 200 lorries which it said was carrying over 1,800 tonnes of aid without the permission of Kiev and without Red Cross monitors.