Evacuation routes will be set up in 4 Ukrainian cities

The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops would hold their fire and open escape routes for civilians trying to flee danger in four Ukrainian towns.

The ministry said the ceasefire begins at 9 a.m. Monday local time in the capital Kyiv, the second-largest city of Kharkiv, Mariupol in the east and Sumy in the northeast.

Residents will exit cities on foot or using ground transportation before being airlifted. The Russian military says it will use drones to monitor evacuations.

The ministry said the ceasefire was being implemented in response to a request from French President Emmanuel Macron to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the government was doing everything possible to open the roads.

The announcement came as Russian forces step up their offensive, after bombing a research facility that handles nuclear materials in Kharkiv.

Ukraine and Russia previously agreed to two ceasefires to allow residents to leave Mariupol. But the deals failed.

Each party blames the other for the failed attempts.

The number of evacuees is probably the highest since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

It remains to be seen whether the latest announcement will result in circumstances allowing people to get to safety.

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