Russia and Ukraine agreed to establish safe routes for civilians to evacuate and aid convoys to reach Mariupol, though several attempts have faltered, with the two sides blaming each other for the failure. About 20,000 people have managed to flee the city since early March.

Ruslan Trad, political analyst and co-founder of Bulgaria-based De Re Militari journal, said the pattern of implementing sieges and establishing brief “humanitarian corridors” to displace the population is a tactic Russia picked up in Syria.

“The most obvious examples are in the siege of Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta,” Trad said. “It is in these areas that the Russian military was advising al-Assad’s forces and also taking notes on its effectiveness.”

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