20 civilians leave Mariupol's Azovstal site: Ukraine regiment

AFP , Saturday 30 Apr 2022

A group of 20 civilians are leaving the Azovstal steelworks, where the last Ukrainian troops are holed up in the Black Sea port of Mariupol, the soldiers there said Saturday.

Azovstal, Ukraine
Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Friday, April 29, 2022. AP


"Twenty civilians, women and children... have been transferred to a suitable place and we hope that they will be evacuated to Zaporizhzhia, on territory controlled by Ukraine," said Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment.

They were still going through the rubble searching for civilians to rescue after a night of Russian bombardment there, he added, in a video posted on Telegram.

Earlier Saturday, a correspondent from Russia's TASS news agency reported from the city that 25 civilians -- including six children younger than 14 -- had quit the site.

"All night, the enemy artillery bombarded the site," Palamar added.

"The ceasefire that should have started at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) didn't start until 11:00 am. Since then, the two sides have respected it," he added.

"The evacuation convoy we had been expecting at 6:00 am only arrived at 6:25 pm.

"The Azov regiment is still clearing the rubble to get civilians out," said Palamar. "We hope this procedure will continue that we will manage to evacuate all the civilians."

No attempt to evacuate people from the Azovstal site has so far succeeded.

Heavy bombardment Friday

Palamar added that for the moment they were not trying to evacuate the wounded for treatment in Ukrainian-held territory.

Several hundred Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are sheltering in the maze of Soviet-era underground tunnels underneath the Azovstal steelworks, and many of them require medical attention.

Ukraine's presidency said on Friday that the evacuation of some civilians from had been planned for that day.

An AFP team on a press trip to Mariupol organised by the Russian army Friday heard heavy bombardment at the Azovstal site from the morning into mid-afternoon.

In the afternoon, the explosions were spaced only seconds apart and some of them seemed particularly powerful.

The latest images from the satellite images from Maxar Technologies, taken on Friday, show nearly all the buildings at the steelworks have been destroyed.

Some roofs have been holed or complete caved in, some buildings reduced to rubble.

A UN representative to Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, said earlier this week she was travelling to the central city of Zaporizhzhia to prepare for a "hopeful" evacuation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday during a visit to Kyiv that the UN was doing everything possible to ensure the evacuation of civilians from the "apocalypse" in Mariupol.

Russia last week said it had gained full control of the strategic port city, except for the huge Azovstal industrial area.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a blockade of the steelworks.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky had repeatedly warned that if Russian forces killed the last remaining troops there, that would spell the end of any peace talks.

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