Civilians being evacuated from Mariupol steel plant: Zelenskyy

Russia At War
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
  • Some women and children were evacuated from a steel plant considered the besieged city of Mariupol’s last defensive stronghold. Hundreds are still believed to remain trapped.
  • U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Ukraine’s president, according to footage released early Sunday. During her visit, she praised the Ukrainian people’s courage and vowed continued U.S. support.
  • A Russian rocket attack destroyed an airport runway in Odesa. No injuries were reported.
  • Four civilians were reported killed and 11 more injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region.
  • Ukraine’s national grid operator says “reliable” power has been restored in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
  • Ukraine’s army says it is stalling Russia’s offensive in the east.

(NewsNation) — Although some women and children were evacuated from a steel plant considered Ukraine’s last defensive stronghold in the besieged port city of Mariupol on Sunday, hundreds remain trapped there with little food, water and medicine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the evacuation, saying on social media Sunday that a group of 100 are on their way from the steel plant to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

He indicated that a Monday rendezvous with the evacuees at the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia has been planned.  Zaporizhzhia is located about 140 miles from Mariupol.

“Evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began,” Zelensky tweeted, “The 1st group of about 100 people is already heading to the controlled area. Tomorrow we’ll meet them in Zaporizhzhia. Grateful to our team! Now they, together with #UN, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant.”

Around 100,000 people are believed to be in blockaded Mariupol, including 1,000 civilians.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working with the United Nations in the ongoing operation to get civilians out of the plant, although numerous previous attempts have failed.

“The ICRC confirms that a safe passage operation is ongoing, in coordination with the UN and the parties to the conflict. The convoy to evacuate civilians started on 29 April, travelled some 230 kilometres and reached the plant in Mariupol on Saturday morning, local time, according to the statement. “The ICRC insists on the fact that no details can be shared until the situation allows, as it could seriously jeopardize the safety of the civilians and the convoy. Relevant local authorities are communicating with the civilians about practical details.”

People on the ground are still awaiting a humanitarian convoy of some sort, Andrij Dobriansky, director of communications for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, said on NewsNation’s “Prime.”

“They’re not telling where this humanitarian convoy is. They don’t want to release that information publicly,” Dobriansky said. “But there are some buses and vehicles being tracked over closer and closer to the occupied territories, especially Mariupol.”

At this point, it is a very bad situation, he added.

“I can tell you almost certainly that no soldier in that facility wants to be captured alive, they will likely be tortured,” Dobriansky said. “Essentially it is a death sentence for any soldier in that steel mill, if Russia were to come inside.

Mariupol is one of Ukraine’s most devastated cities, lying in bombed-out ruins after Russia’s invasion. But all across the country, there is still chaos and suffering as a result of the now months-long war.

“That is the nature of this horrible war, the fact that no civilian is safe,” Dobriansky said. “You might think that you’re safe in Odesa, 100 kilometers and hundreds of kilometers away from the fighting. And yet we’ve seen numerous times missiles come over from Russian territory, flown 1000s of kilometers away, land in something that they say close to a fuel depot, but always civilians die.”

ALso on Sunday, four civilians were reported killed and 11 more were injured by Russian shelling in the Donetsk region, according to the the Ukrainian regional governor.

The deaths and seven of the injuries were in the northern city of Lyman, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post.

One person also died in the city of Bakhmut from injuries received in the Luhansk region, he said.

In the same post, Kyrylenko said that it was impossible to determine the number of victims in the bombed-out port city of Mariupol and the town of Volnovakha, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows damage at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

In Odesa, a Russian rocket attack destroyed an airport runway. Local authorities urged residents to shelter in place, citing army sources reporting “several” explosions heard in the area. No injuries have been reported from the attack.

U.S. officials continue to pledge support for Ukraine, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who praised the courage of the Ukrainian people after leading a congressional delegation to Kyiv to assess Ukraine’s needs. Ukraine officials, for their part, have been asking for more support as Russians advance through the country’s east, signaling a shift in the war.

Pelosi and other U.S. lawmakers met with President Zelenskyy and his top aids for three hours Saturday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says American diplomats are making plans to return soon.

President Joe Biden spoke with Pelosi Sunday following her return to Poland on Sunday to discuss her visit to Ukraine and her meeting with Zelenskyy.

Even as Russian forces keep pushing east, they have been stalled, the Ukrainian army says.

In a Sunday Facebook post, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian troops trying to advance in the Sloboda, Donetsk and Tauride regions were being held back by Ukrainian forces fighting village by village.

At the same time, Ukrainian intelligence officials also accused Russian troops of destroying medical infrastructure, taking equipment and denying medical care to residents in several occupied places.

The accuracy of the claims could not be immediately verified.

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