Ukraine to evacuate more civilians from besieged Mariupol

Ukrainian activists attend a rally on the Independence Square in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, April 27, 2022. Activists gathered to call on world leaders to help organize a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians and soldiers from the Russian-sieged city of Mariupol. 

KYIV — Ukrainian authorities are planning to evacuate more civilians from Mariupol on Monday, after dozens were finally brought to safety following weeks trapped under heavy fire in the strategic port city’s Azovstal steel complex.

The plant has endured a Russian blockade since Moscow’s invasion on Feb. 24, with stories of the harsh conditions in besieged Mariupol horrifying the world as a war which has seen thousands killed and millions displaced entered its third month. 

The UN said Sunday that a “safe passage operation” was taking place at the Azovstal steel plant. According to Kyiv, roughly 100 civilians have been evacuated from the besieged plant, while the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “currently participating” in the operation.

Russia’s defense ministry gave a lower figure of 80 civilians, adding: “Those who wished to leave for areas controlled by the Kyiv regime were handed over to UN and ICRC (Red Cross) representatives”.

In his regular daily address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the successful operation and said more evacuations were expected Monday. 

“Today, we finally managed to start the evacuation of people from Azovstal,” Zelensky said in a video address, adding that they were due to arrive in Ukraine-controlled Zaporizhzhia on Monday.

“For the first time, there were 2 days of real ceasefire on this territory. More than a hundred civilians have already been evacuated — women and children first of all,” he added. 

The head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration later said the evacuation would begin at 7:00 am local time. 

One Russian news report put the number of civilians still in the plant at more than 500.

Moscow’s defense ministry earlier confirmed that civilians were leaving, releasing a video that showed cars and buses traveling in the dark marked with a “Z,” the letter used by the Russian forces in the conflict.

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