Russia’s Ministry of Defense on Tuesday called on Ukrainian fighters in Severodonetsk to lay down their arms “as has already happened to your comrades who previously surrendered in Mariupol.”
“We call on the official authorities in Kiev to show prudence and give appropriate instructions to the militants to stop their senseless resistance and withdraw from the territory of Azot plant,” the ministry said in a news statement.
The ministry said that it was prepared to conduct a “humanitarian operation” on Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the Ukrainian-held Azot chemical plant to Russian-held territory to the north.
“The Russian military announced their readiness to conduct a humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians from Azot in the northern direction,” towards the town of Svatove, in Russian-occupied territory, the ministry said, adding that Russia will open an evacuation corridor for civilians on Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Moscow time.
The Ukrainian head of the Severodonetsk military administration said Tuesday that just over 500 civilians continued to shelter in the Azot chemical plant, which is still under Ukrainian control, and which authorities say has been the target of intense shelling by Russian forces.
Russia's Ministry of Defense claimed that Ukraine had requested a corridor to evacuate civilians to Ukrainian-held territory, in Lysychansk, but that “it is not possible to safely evacuate in this direction” because all three major bridges are impassable.
CNN has reached out to Ukrainian authorities for comment.
Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said Monday that crossing between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk was now “difficult, but not impossible,” and Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday that evacuations were slow because of the constant bombardment but still possible.
In calling for Ukrainian fighters to surrender, Russia's Ministry of Defense said that it would guarantee “the preservation of lives and the observance of all norms of the Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners of war, as happened to your comrades who previously surrendered in Mariupol.”
CNN's Olga Voitovych, Julia Presniakova Yulia Kesaieva, and Jen Deaton contributed to this report.