The Russian military will reopen the evacuation corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday, April 1 at the request of French and German leaders, according to a statement from the Russia’s ministry of defense on Thursday.
The ministry said that “at the personal requests of the President of France E. Macron and the Federal Chancellor of Germany O. Scholz to the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin from 10:00 (Moscow time) on April 1, 2022” the Russian armed forces will reopen the corridor with an intermediate point in Berdiansk.
“For the successful implementation of this humanitarian operation, it is proposed to conduct it with the direct participation of representatives of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the Russian statement added.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has decided that US military members deployed to Poland who are part of the 82nd Airborne; will stay in position there for “a while longer,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday.
The Harry S. Truman carrier strike group in the Mediterranean will also stay in place, Kirby added.
Both groups were deployed to Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. About 7,000 troops and their support elements from the 82nd Airborne are stationed in Poland as a part of this deployment, according to the Pentagon. The carrier’s aircraft have been flying in support of US and NATO efforts to bolster the eastern flank of NATO in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Kirby stressed both the 82nd Airborne and the Truman carrier strike group have not been deployed “for that long,” only for about “eight to six weeks,” he said.
Kirby said the “security environment in Europe is going to be different,” no matter when the war in Ukraine ends, and the Department of Defense doesn’t know what that looks like yet.
“No matter how this war ends, no matter when it ends; the security environment in Europe is going to be different. And we’re gonna have to respond to that,” Kirby said. “So what that looks like, we don’t know.
But we’re going to stay open to having those kinds of conversations; to about whether there needs to be more permanent; a larger permanent presence on the European continent,” he added.
White House: “No plans” for Biden-Putin to talk and any conversation would require “serious de-escalation”
There are “no plans” for US President Joe Biden to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin; White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Thursday; adding that any conversation would require “serious de-escalation” from the Russians in Ukraine; and setting a high bar for reengagement between the two leaders.
“Not currently. We’ve been very clear that any reengagement of diplomacy at that level; would require significant demonstration from the Russians; of serious de-escalation and we have not seen that,” Bedingfield said.
Biden last spoke to Putin over the phone on Feb. 12, less than two weeks before Russia began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.