Wednesday, October 5

What are humanitarian corridors and what are they for in the Russia-Ukraine war?


The Russian Army announced this Monday the opening of humanitarian corridors and the temporary cessation of military activity in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv. The figure pursues that the contention aggravates the humanitarian catastrophe that supposes any warlike conflict. But they are fragile, difficult to maintain, and sometimes counterproductive.

What are humanitarian corridors?

According to the UN, humanitarian corridors are one of the ways to achieve a temporary cessation of armed conflicts. They are demilitarized zones limited in time and space. They should be agreed upon by the parties to the conflict. The corridors serve to provide food and basic goods to the fenced areas and, in the specific case of the war in Ukraine, to evacuate civilians. Corridors are necessary when cities are under siege and the population lacks basic supplies, i.e. water, food and electricity.

Who sets up these brokers?

In numerous conflicts, the UN negotiates the opening of humanitarian corridors. On other occasions, they are opened by local authorities. Since corridors require the consent of the parties to the conflict, there is always the risk of political and military abuse. For example, they can be misused by combatants to smuggle weapons and fuel. They can also be used by neutral observers, NGOs and journalists to gain access to areas where war crimes may be taking place.

What brokers intend to establish in Ukraine?

The last attempt to open these corridors has been registered in the cities of Kiev, Mariupol, Kharkov and Sumi. The one from Kiev will pass through the cities of Gostomel, will reach Chernobyl and the Belarusian town of Gden, to Gomel, also in Belarus, for the subsequent delivery of displaced persons by air to the Russian Federation.

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From Mariúpol the departure will be made in two ways: the first route is from Mariúpol to Rostov-on-Don, already in Russia, and then by air, rail and road transport to selected destinations or temporary accommodation points. The second would go from Mariupol to Mangush, in the Donetsk basin.

The Kharkov route would reach Belgorod, already in the Russian Federation, until reaching the refugees by air, rail and road transport to selected destinations or temporary accommodation points; while from Sumi there would be two routes: the first to Belgorod (Russia) and the second to the Ukrainian town of Poltava.

The Russian side has already informed the specialized agencies of the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that it is opening these humanitarian corridors in Ukraine.

Who has access?

It is the parties to the conflict that determine access to humanitarian corridors. They also set its duration, the territorial scope and the means of transport that can be used.

In exceptional cases, brokers are only organized by one of the parties. This happened with the American airlift after the blockade of Berlin by the Soviet Union, in 1948 and 1949.

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Where have they been used?

In 1938-1939 the so-called ‘Kindertransporten’ were opened, through which Jewish children from Nazi-controlled areas were evacuated to the United Kingdom. Also during the siege of Sarajevo, from 1992 to 1995, and in the evacuation of the Syrian city of Ghouta in 2018. In the war in Yemen, the UN has unsuccessfully tried to establish humanitarian corridors.

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