KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 – Russia’s national news agency TASS reported that the country has announced a temporary ceasefire to open humanitarian corridors for the exit of residents from the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha.
Citing, a statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry Saturday, the agency said the ceasefire will be from 10am Moscow time and the humanitarian corridors will be opened for the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha.
According to the report, the exit routes were agreed with the Ukrainian side.
The agency also reported the Russian Defense Ministry saying that the Russian troops were not targeting Ukrainian cities, and that their operations “are limited to surgically striking and incapacitating Ukrainian military infrastructure. There are no threats whatsoever to the civilian population.”
Meanwhile, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it is ramping up its operations amid reports of dwindling food supplies in embattled areas in Ukraine.
WFP also warned that the conflict could have consequences beyond the country. Ukraine has long been the “breadbasket” of Europe, but the fighting could disrupt global wheat trade, with knock-on impacts on food prices and overall food security.
“The bullets and bombs in Ukraine could take the global hunger crisis to levels beyond anything we’ve seen before,” Executive Director of WFP David Beasley said during a visit to one of its hubs on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
According to a report on its website, the UN agency said it has been setting up hubs to facilitate delivery of food assistance into Ukraine and assist refugees streaming over the borders.
Over two million people have been displaced since the start of the conflict eight days ago, according to UN estimates. Roughly half fled the country, including some 500,000 children.
For WFP, the immediate priority is to establish a “food lifeline” into hotspots in Ukraine, such as the capital, Kyiv. Reports are emerging of severe shortages of food and water there, and in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Amid a shortage of cash in Ukraine, WFP plans to provide assistance to families through food distributions, cash, and food vouchers that can be spent in selected shops.
Global food prices reached a 10-year high last month, according to the latest Food Price Index from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The Russian Federation and Ukraine are responsible for roughly 30 per cent of the global wheat trade. WFP fears any serious disruption of production and exports could push food prices even higher, affecting millions of people.