Kyiv: Dozens of civilians were evacuated on Sunday from the southeastern city of Mariupol, where they found themselves in the Azovstal metallurgical complex along with Ukrainian soldiers still resisting Russian bombs.
The United Nations has confirmed that the operation, which began on Saturday and was coordinated between Ukraine, Russia and the ICRC, is ongoing.
“The evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has begun. The first group of about 100 people is heading to the (Ukrainian) controlled territory. Tomorrow we will meet them in Zaporizhia,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote. Twitter.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said that “thanks to the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, 80 civilians were rescued from the plant, including women and children detained by Ukrainian nationalists. “Azovstal in Mariupol (…) was evacuated to the village of Bezymenne in the Donetsk People’s Republic (controlled by Russia, ed.), Where they received housing, food and necessary medical care.”
“Civilians (…) who wanted to go to areas controlled by the Kyiv regime were handed over to representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry added.
Buses with the letter Z
A video released by Russia’s Defense Ministry shows a convoy of cars and buses driving in the dark, adorned with the letter “Z”, a symbol of Russia’s armed forces in the conflict.
The United Nations has confirmed that an “evacuation operation” is under way. It was launched “in coordination with the ICRC and the parties to the conflict,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He stressed that for security reasons he could not provide other details.
Thousands of civilians have been able to leave since the start of the war on February 24 in Mariupol, a port city inhabited by half a million people before the war and now under Russian control after weeks of bombing that nearly wiped out at least 20,000 people. , according to Ukr.
But this is the first time, after numerous failed attempts, despite the patronage of foreign officials and Pope Francis, that civilians who have established themselves in the Azovstal complex, the last center of Ukrainian resistance defeated by Russian bombs, can get out.
“Mariupol, the city of Maria”
On Sunday, during the Angelus prayer in the Vatican, the Pope again called for the opening of safe humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from “Mariupol, the city of Maria, bombed and barbarically destroyed.”
New satellite images from Maxar Technologies, taken on April 29, showed that almost all the buildings of the huge metallurgical complex were destroyed by bombing, and Ukrainian soldiers and civilians hid in numerous underground galleries of Soviet times, which, according to Kiev, attacked with heavy armor power.
Thus, the commander of the 36th Ukrainian Marine Rifle Brigade, which has established itself in Azovstal, Serhiy Volynskyi said on Thursday that a Russian bomb had destroyed an underground field hospital set up at the site.
“All medical infrastructure, operating rooms were destroyed. Many of our guys died instantly. Many wounded received new injuries. The situation is becoming even more critical,” he told the site. Ukrainian Left Bank, while the day before it had already reported 600 wounded soldiers and hundreds of civilians.
UN Coordinator in Ukraine Osnat Lubrani said on Thursday that he was heading south to prepare for an evacuation attempt.
Faced with the slow advance of Russian forces, which have a numerical advantage and are better equipped with heavy weapons, in the east of their territory after their defeat around Kyiv at the beginning of the offensive, Ukraine received an unannounced visit by an American delegation this weekend. The Congress was chaired by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, hosted by Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Our delegation has traveled to Kyiv to send an unequivocal and loud message to the world: The United States stands for Ukraine,” said a congressional delegation, a guarantor of US aid, which will include a Lend-Lease program. , similar to the one the United States created for its allies during World War II.
The visit came a week after US Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv to announce more than $ 700 million in additional aid.
Ukraine continues to repeat the West’s urgent need for heavy weapons, including armored vehicles and long-range howitzers.
“Difficult in the East”
A senior Ukrainian military official said Saturday night that he had briefed US Army Chief of Staff Mark A. Milli on “the difficult situation in the east of our country, especially in the Izyum and Severodonetsk areas, where the enemy has concentrated most of its forces.” efforts and its most capable troops. ”
President Zelensky also warned on Saturday that the Russians “have formed reinforcements in the Kharkiv region, trying to increase pressure on Donbass.”
The northeastern part of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city with nearly 1.5 million inhabitants before the war, is shelled daily by Russian missiles, killing civilians.
It is on this eastern flank that the Russian army is gnawing at the territory, trying to keep its enemy under pressure from the north and south to complete the maintenance of the Donbass mining basin.
In the south, Russia’s Defense Ministry says it struck an airfield near Odessa on Saturday, destroying a “hangar with weapons and ammunition from the United States and European countries,” as well as a runway.
The governor of the region Maxim Marchenko announced on Saturday about a missile strike on the airport of this millionth port city, which is still relatively preserved.
Ukrainians allowed themselves to strike on their side in Russia.
Following a series of bombings affecting Russia’s infrastructure related to Ukrainian military incursions across the border, the governor of the Russian region of Belgorod reported a fire at military facilities on Saturday.
During the day, the governor of another border region, Kursk, explained the collapse of the railway bridge as a “sabotage.”
In terms of armaments, amid large hilly plains and industrial cities, face-to-face is essentially happening with artillery. The balance of forces there is extremely favorable for the Russians, “up to five times superior in equipment,” according to Sergeant of the 123rd Ukrainian Brigade Irina Teregovich.
Thus, support for the West is a significant bet, and the United States is at the forefront: Joe Biden asked Congress this week for a colossal $ 33 billion budget expansion, mainly to provide additional military assistance to Kyiv.