Ukraine offers to hold Mariupol talks with Russia to evacuate garrison, civilians

Ukraine-Russia talks in Istanbul
Ukraine-Russia talks in Istanbul

(Reuters) -Senior Ukrainian negotiators on Wednesday offered to hold special talks with Russia in Mariupol without conditions in a bid to evacuate troops and civilians from the besieged port city.

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Negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted on Wednesday that the talks could be “one on one. Two on two. To save our guys, (the far right) Azov (battalion), military, civilians, children, the living and the wounded”.

Ukraine accused Russian forces on Wednesday of failing to observe a local ceasefire agreement long enough to allow large numbers of women, children and elderly people to flee the city, which has been largely pounded to rubble by Russian forces.

The remaining fighters holed up in a vast steel works have ignored an ultimatum by Russia to surrender. David Arakhamia, a second negotiator, said in an online post that he and Podolyak were in constant contact with Ukrainian forces in the city.

“Today, in a conversation with the city defenders, a proposal was put forward to hold direct negotiations, on site, on the evacuation of our military garrison,” he said. “For our part, we are ready to arrive for such negotiations at any time as soon as we receive confirmation from the Russian side.”

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Ron Popeski; editing by Jonathan Oatis)