Hundreds of people – dozens of whom are injured – are believed to be inside the complex, the last Ukrainian hangout in the city after weeks of heavy Russian bombing.
It is estimated that 100,000 people are left in the city, officials have said.
“Evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began,” Zelensky said.
“Thank you for our team! Now they are with #FN [United Nations]working on evacuating other civilians from the facility, “he added.
A convoy started on Friday and traveled 230 kilometers to reach Mariupol on Saturday morning, the ICRC said in a statement.
“The ICRC insists that no details can be shared before the situation allows, as it could seriously jeopardize the safety of the civilian population and the convoy. Relevant local authorities are communicating with the civilian population on practical details,” the statement added.
The Russian news agency TASS, citing the Moscow Ministry of Defense, reported that 80 civilians were rescued from the “territory” by the Azovstal plant and evacuated to a Russian-controlled area a few kilometers away.
It is unclear if any of them came from inside the plant itself.
“Civilians evacuated by Russian soldiers from the Azovstal factory, who wanted to travel to areas controlled by the Kiev regime, were handed over to representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry said.
‘We pray that everything works’
“If you have relatives or acquaintances in Mariupol, try to contact them in every way. Call, text and say that it is possible to go to Zaporozhzhia, where it is safe,” said the Council on Telegram and instructed civilians to meet around the “Port City” mall at 16.00
“We pray that everything works,” it added.
A total of 46 people had left “residential buildings next to Azovstal” and “were provided with accommodation and food,” TASS and RIA Novosti said, referring to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The Russian agencies did not reveal where the evacuees were taken.
Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said the ceasefire, which was to begin at 6, ended up beginning at. 11.
Palamar said 20 women and children had been taken to the “agreed meeting place” in the hope that they would be evacuated to the “agreed destination” Zaporizhzhia.