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Ukrainian refugees begin fleeing through escape routes; Russian airstrike hits Sumy

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Ukrainian refugees begin fleeing through escape routes; Russian airstrike hits Sumy
A Ukrainian rescue team and locals are seen among debris of residential buildings damaged by a shelling in the Zhytomyr region in Ukraine on Monday. Photo by Ukrainian State Emergency Service | License Photo

March 8 (UPI) -- Humanitarian escape routes began flowing with Ukrainian refugees on Tuesday as Russian forces continued their assault across the Eastern European nation and officials said more than 2 million people have now fled.

Ukrainian civilians began using an evacuation corridor from Sumy on Tuesday. But a second corridor in the Mariupol-Zaporizhzhia section, officials said, is under attack by the Russian military.

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Earlier in the day, Russia said it would open humanitarian corridors from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol to allow civilians to be evacuated.

In a Telegram post responding to the cease-fire announcement, Ukrainian forces said "it is difficult to trust the occupier," CNN reported.

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The State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine said in a tweet Tuesday that another civilian corridor was given a green light for the first stage of evacuations.

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, said that Russian forces have begun firing along the Mariupol-Zaporizhzhia route.

"Cease-fire violated! Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol," Nikolenko tweeted.

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"Eight trucks plus 30 buses ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and to [evacuate] civilians to Zaporizhzhia. Pressure on Russia MUST step up to make it uphold its commitments."

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United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Tuesday that the number of Ukrainians fleeing their homeland has now reached 2 million.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a tweet on Tuesday that 12,000 Russian troops have been killed in fighting so far, and Moscow has lost 48 warplanes, 80 helicopters, 300 tanks, more than 1,000 armed vehicles, 120 artillery pieces and dozens of anti-aircraft systems.

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In turn, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that troops have destroyed more than 150 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities in the past 24 hours, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

The mayor of Zhytomyr, a city in western Ukraine, said Russian military strikes hit two key structures.

In a pair of Telegram videos, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said a dormitroy used by army soldiers and civilians was destroyed, although he did not immediately have information on fatalities, and that a textile factory, which manufactures about 70% of all cotton wool in the country, was also destroyed.

Also, a Russian airstrike overnight in Sumy killed almost two dozen civilians, according to the regional prosecutor's office in Ukraine -- including children.

"As a result of the bombing, one house was completely destroyed, 16 were partially destroyed," the office said, according to CNN. "The bodies of 21 people, including two children, were found during an inspection."

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Also Tuesday, Shell announced that it will stop buying oil and gas from Russia due to the fighting. Shell is Europe's largest oil company.

Scenes from the Russian war on Ukraine

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

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