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Limited cease-fire reached for civilian evacuations as Russian forces cut off key cities

Russian troops seized a key government building in Kherson and more than 1 million refugees have left Ukraine, as Russia’s invasion begins a second week. (Video: Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

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MUKACHEVO, Ukraine — Ukraine and Russia say they have agreed to temporary local cease-fires to create “humanitarian corridors” for the evacuation of civilians and delivery of vital supplies, as Russian forces encircled major port cities and advanced toward other population centers.

The details of the limited cease-fires — which followed a second round of talks Thursday — are still being worked out, officials said. Ukrainian leaders are warning that food, medicine and other essentials are running low in southern cities under siege. In Kherson by the Black Sea, one official warned of disaster within days unless a corridor opened. In coastal Mariupol, near the Russian border, the mayor said residents have “no light, water and heat.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has now sent 90 percent of the forces readied around Ukraine into the country, according to a senior U.S. defense official. Russian troops are moving toward the capital, Kyiv, and the defense official said the invaders show a “clear willingness” to hit civilian targets.

More than 1 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations, an exodus that is expected to become Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis this century. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas cited those harrowing conditions Thursday as he said tens of thousands of Ukrainian nationals already living in America would get temporary protection from deportation.

Here’s what to know

  • Europe’s largest nuclear power plant caught fire after Russian forces shelled the site in southeast Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials, raising fears of a catastrophe. But the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog soon said the blaze had not affected “essential” equipment.
  • Ukrainians will also be eligible for “temporary protection” within the European Union for up to three years, depending partly on conditions in Ukraine.
  • The U.S. and Russian militaries have established a special line to communicate with each other through the crisis, two U.S. defense officials said Thursday.
  • A senior French official said a Thursday call between Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron left Macron convinced that “the worst is yet to come” and that Putin aims to control all of Ukraine.
  • The White House on Thursday announced sanctions against dozens of additional Russian elites, oligarchs and their family members.
  • Russian troops seized a key government building in Kherson, the region’s governor said Thursday, and a local journalist told The Washington Post that no Ukrainian government forces have been seen in the city center since early Wednesday.
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