The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working with the UN on an ongoing operation to move people out of Mariupol and the besieged Azov Steelworks, the ICRC said in a statement.
“The ICRC confirms that a safe passage operation is underway in coordination with the UN and the parties to the conflict. The convoy to evacuate civilians started on April 29, traveled about 230 kilometers and reached the Mariupol factory on Saturday morning local time.” 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 communicate with civilians on practical details. “
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in a tweet Sunday that “the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has begun.”
“The first group of about 100 people is already on its way to the controlled area,” he added.
Mariupol City Council said on Sunday that there was a “chance” to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol.
The council called on people to gather at 16.00 local time (9.00 ET) near a shopping mall called “Port City” to evacuate them to the southern region of Zaporizhzhia.
“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.
“We pray that everything works,” it added.
A local Telegram channel previously said that until at. 15 local time, a “green corridor” would be open to citizens wishing to enter territory “controlled by the enemy in the Kamensky district.”
There are still about 100,000 people in Mariupol, although most of the city has been severely damaged by weeks of shelling and airstrikes by Russian forces.
Ukrainian officials have provided more details about the evacuation of civilians who had been captured at the steep facility in Azovstal.
David Arakhamia, an adviser to President Zelensky, said: “Today is the third day of a special operation we call the ‘Azovstal evacuation.’ we managed to withdraw more. more than 100 civilians – young children, women and the elderly. “
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Ukrainian television: “Sorry, we were silent. We really wanted everything to work. Our silence was for people to come out alive and unharmed. More than 100 people have been evacuated, and “All this happened thanks to the control of Ukrainian President Zelensky, Antonio Guterres and the International Committee of the Red Cross, for which we are very, very grateful.”
A little more context: Mariupol is home to the Azovstal steelworks, which has been hit by heavy Russian bombing in recent weeks. Hundreds of people, dozens of whom are injured, are believed to be inside the steelmaking complex.
The Russian news agency TASS says that according to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, 80 civilians have now been rescued from the “territory” of the Azovstal plant and evacuated to a Russian-controlled area a few kilometers away.
It is unclear if any of them came from the facility itself, where hundreds of civilians have been under week-long bombardment.
“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.
The report followed comments from a Ukrainian commander inside the factory, who said some civilians have been evacuated from the steelworks following the imposition of a ceasefire.
It was hoped that these civilians, all women and children, would go to the “agreed destination” Zaporizhzhia, said Captain Svyatoslav Palamar.
CNN’s Kostan Nechyporenko contributed to this report.