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Ukraine: More than 100 people evacuated from Mariupol’s Azovstal factory

People were put on board buses and taken to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia (Photo: Reuters)

People were put on board buses and taken to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia (Photo: Reuters)

More than 100 women and children were evacuated from a Soviet-era steel plant in Mariupol, where Russian bombs have been raining down for two months.

For the first time during the invasion of the port city, a two-day ceasefire is being controlled, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed over the weekend.

Footage released online by the controversial Azov regiment yesterday shows mothers with young children and elderly women in the hole at the Azovstal steelworks, climbing over a steep pile of rubbish and rubble.

As part of the UN-led evacuation, they were put on buses and taken to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 141 miles away.

Natalia Usmanova, 37, was one of the people rescued. “You just can not imagine what we’ve been through – the terror,” she told the Guardian.

‘I lived there, worked there all my life, but what we saw there was just awful.

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A Ukrainian woman from the Mariupol area cries after arriving at a registration center for IDPs in Zaporizhzhia (Photo: Reuters)

A Ukrainian woman from Mariupol cries after arriving at a registration center for IDPs in Zaporizhzhia (Photo: Reuters)

Azovstal steelworks worker Valeria (right) embraces his sister Aleksandra (left) as they meet in a temporary accommodation center (Photo: Reuters)

Azovstal steelworks worker Valeria (right) embraces his sister Aleksandra (left) as they meet in a temporary accommodation center (Photo: Reuters)

Construction worker Maxim hugs his son Matvey, who had previously left town with his relatives (Photo: Reuters)

Construction worker Maxim hugs his son Matvey, who had previously left town with his relatives (Photo: Reuters)

‘I was afraid the bunker would not withstand it – I had terrible fear.

‘When the bunker started shaking, I was hysterical, my husband can vouch for that. I was so scared that the bunker would fall in. ‘

Civilians fleeing Russian-occupied territories have previously described their vehicles being shelled.

Officials have repeatedly accused Vladimir Putin’s forces of shelling agreed-upon evacuation routes.

In a video speech shared on Telegram, President Zelensky said: ‘Today we finally managed to start the evacuation of people from Azovstal.

A bus convoy transporting evacuees from the Mariupol area is seen on a road leading to Zaporizhzhia (Photo: Reuters)

A bus convoy transporting evacuees from Mariupol is driving down a road to Zaporizhzhia (Photo: Reuters)

A woman holds a child next to a bus filled with evacuees from Azovstal (Photo: Reuters)

A woman holds a child next to a bus filled with evacuees from Azovstal (Photo: Reuters)

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows damage to the Mariupol steelworks (Image: AP)

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows damage to the Mariupol steelworks (Image: AP)

Civilians leaving the area near the Azovstal steelworks arrive at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk region (Photo: Reuters)

People arrive at a temporary accommodation center in the Donetsk region (Photo: Reuters)

‘After many weeks of negotiations, after many attempts, various meetings, summonses and proposals.

“There was not a single day that we did not try to find a solution that could save our people.

‘Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vital corridor has begun to function. For the first time, there was a real two-day ceasefire. ‘

A Ukrainian defender of the steelworks called on groups such as the UN and the Red Cross to ensure the safety of those evacuated.

Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said there should be guarantees from ‘a third party – politicians, world leaders – who will work together to negotiate with the Russians to pull us out of here’.

Denys Shlega, head of the 12th Operational Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard, said hundreds of civilians remain trapped along with nearly 500 wounded soldiers and ‘many’ dead bodies.

“There are still several dozen small children in the piles under the plant,” Mr Shlega stressed.

As many as 100,000 people may still be in Mariupol. Estimates include 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers under the sprawling steelworks – the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.

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