An evacuation of civilians from Mariupol was underway on Sunday as women and children confined to bunkers under an extensive steelworks began to come to safety, according to Ukrainian officials and the UN.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said about 100 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal factory and are on their way to a “controlled area.”
“Tomorrow we will meet them in Zaporizhzhia,” he wrote on Twitter. He said they were working with the UN and other international groups to evacuate more people.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that it was assisting in a “safe passage operation” in coordination with the United Nations and the Ukrainian and Russian authorities.
While a handful of people were evacuated on Saturday – with estimates from Ukrainians and Russians between 20 and 46 – the ICRC said that “no details can be shared before the situation allows, as it could seriously jeopardize the security of the civilian population.” “
A UN official confirmed that the operation was under way, but said details would not be available until it was clear that people had come to safety.
It was not clear whether the evacuation would simply include people trapped in the steelworks, where hundreds of civilians have sought refuge with hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers, or whether people would also be taken from the city itself. Before the war, about 450,000 people lived in the port city. It is now estimated that there are about 100,000 people living in the ruins of the ruined metropolis.
Ukrainian officials have said more than 20,000 civilians have been killed and have accused Russians of digging mass graves to hide the scale of the massacre.
Mariupol City Council confirmed that an evacuation effort was underway, and wrote on the Telegram that people should gather at. 16 near what used to be a mall known as the “port city.”
“If you have relatives or acquaintances in Mariupol, try to contact them in every way,” the city council wrote. “Call, write and say that it is possible to go to Zaporizhzhia, where it is safe.”
The ICRC said a convoy of vehicles began arriving in Mariupol on April 29 and traveled 150 miles before arriving Saturday morning.