Ukraine: All women, children and eldery out of steel plant

AP , Saturday 7 May 2022

Ukraine's deputy prime minister says all women, children and elderly have been evacuated from a Mariupol steel mill long besieged by Russian forces.

Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People s Republic, eastern in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, May 5, 2022. AP


Iryna Vereshchuk made the announcement on Saturday.

She said: ``The president's order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.''

She did not elaborate. The Russian news agency Tass had reported that 50 civilians were evacuated from the plant on Saturday. A similar number left on Friday.

The civilians had been holding up in the plant with Ukrainian fighters making a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of Mariupol.

Evacuating civilians from the steel mill had drawn the world's attention, with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross desperately trying to organize departures.

In recent days, fighters inside the plant had described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding for weeks. But Russian fire had continued in the area, making the operation difficult.

It remains unclear what will happen to the Ukrainian fighters there, both those still in combat and hundreds who are believed to be wounded. In recent days, the Ukrainian government had been reaching out to a variety of international organizations to try and guarantee them safe passage.

The escape of the civilians puts new pressure on Ukraine to find a way out for the fighters, who had vowed not to surrender. Already, Russian forces had probed the plant and even reached into its warren of tunnels, according to Ukrainian officials.

Russia had been trying to clear the plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance, before it marks Victory Day on Monday. That commemoration honors the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

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