Civilians leave Azovstal bunkers as part of UN-led evacuation

The civilians of Mariupol who left the territory of the Azovstal plant are in a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezymenny (Donetsk region), about 30 km east of the port city. The evacuation is under the supervision of the UN and the International Red Cross.

According to the agency REUTERS, civilians continued to be evacuated on Sunday, May 1, from the basement of the Azovstal metallurgical plant, after the agreements reached by the UN and the ICRC. A Reuters correspondent saw dozens of civilians in the temporary accommodation center, and UN officials confirmed that an operation had been underway to safely get people out of the plant since Saturday.

Organization spokesman Saviano Abreu said:

“The UN confirms that the safe passage operation at the Azovstal steel plant continues in coordination with the ICRC and the parties to the conflict. At the moment, while operations are underway, we will not share details, as this may jeopardize the safety of civilians and the convoy.”

The representative of the International Red Cross also commented on the situation:

“The ICRC confirms that a safe passage operation is underway, in coordination with the UN and the parties to the conflict. The convoy for the evacuation of civilians traveled about 230 km and reached the factory in Mariupol on Saturday morning. The ICRC insists that no details can be released until then until the situation permits, as this seriously jeopardizes the safety of the civilians and the convoy. The relevant local authorities will communicate with the civilians on practical details.”

The siege of the port city of Mariupol, when Russian troops shelled it for almost two months, turned the city into a desert, with an unknown death toll and thousands of people struggling to survive without water, sanitation and food.

The city is under Russian control, but some military and civilians have taken refuge underground at the Azovstal plant, a massive Soviet-era factory founded under Stalin and designed with an endless maze of bunkers and tunnels to withstand attacks. People, many of whom were children, hid in factory bunkers and tunnels while artillery shelling destroyed their city.

Agency RIA News says that people in Mariupol, evacuated from the Azovstal plant and from nearby neighborhoods, decide for themselves where to go next after a temporary camp in the village of Bezymennoye in the DPR. Women and children are accommodated in buses prepared to transport evacuees to Russia or Kyiv-controlled Zaporozhye. All arrivals are asked in the presence of UN representatives and staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about their personal choice of the place of further movement.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky informed last night that more than 100 people who managed to be taken out of Mariupol on Sunday should arrive in Zaporozhye on Monday morning:

“Given all the difficulties of the process, the first evacuees will arrive in Zaporozhye tomorrow morning. God forbid that all this does not fall apart. Our team will meet them there. I hope that tomorrow all the necessary conditions will also be met to continue the removal of people from Mariupol. We plan to start in 8 a.m. Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vitally important corridor has started working. For the first time there was a two-day ceasefire in this territory, more than 100 civilians, primarily women and children, who were fleeing from hostilities precisely at Azovstal, have been evacuated.”

The Azov Regiment yesterday provided a video posted by negotiator David Arakhamyan showing exit of civilians from the cellars of the factory:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the “special military operation” launched by Russia in February was necessary because the United States used Ukraine to threaten Russia and Moscow had to protect Russian speakers from persecution. He says that Ukraine and Russia are essentially one country. Ukraine, on the other hand, says it is fighting imperialist land grabs by Russia and that Putin’s claims of genocide are nonsense.



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