More civilians have begun to evacuate from the Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
“At this time the next stage of rescuing our people from Azovstal is underway,” Andrey Yermak, chief of Ukraine’s presidential staff, said on Friday.
However, little was known about the operation.
“The results will be announced later,” Andrey said.
There was a fight in the steel plant on Thursday. Ukrainian fighters organized as Russian troops entered the plant despite Russian pledges for a one-day ceasefire to safely evacuate more than 200 civilians trapped in the facility.
The Russian army controls all but the steelworks in the devastated city on the northern shore of the Azov Sea. It has been repeatedly targeted by Russia during its 10-week offensive.
An adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anton Gerashchenko, said Russian troops stormed the plant through its tunnels with the help of an electrician who knew the layout.
Russia denied that its forces had entered the plant, and in turn, it accused Ukrainians of not allowing civilians to leave. About 100 civilians have been evacuated from the industrial facility in recent days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was Russia’s attack that was suppressing an estimated 200 civilians in the plant’s underground bunkers.
“Just imagine this hell! And there are kids,” he said in his video address late Thursday. “More than two months of continuous shelling, bombardment, constant death.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier assured Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a phone call that Moscow’s forces were ready to allow safe passage for those trapped at the steel plant, days of fighting through Saturday. with pause.
But in an online video, Captain Svyatoslav Palmar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, said: “Heavy, bloody fighting is going on. Still, the Russians have not kept the ceasefire promise and given an opportunity. For those who want shelter … to evacuate to the basement of the plant.” It was not clear where he was speaking from.
Zelensky said in an address Thursday morning that a longer ceasefire was needed to evacuate the remaining Mariupol citizens.
“It will take time to get people out of those basements, from those underground shelters. In the present circumstances, we cannot use heavy equipment to remove the debris. It will all have to be done by hand,” he said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price expressed doubts about Russia’s commitment to a ceasefire.
“What we have consistently observed, and we have also seen in recent times, is the tendency on the part of the Russian Federation to disguise itself as an actor to embrace a so-called humanitarian break that has humanitarian concerns – only To quickly and immediately resume shelling and violence, including against civilians trapped in besieged areas, including Mariupol.”
The United Nations said on Wednesday that more than 300 civilians evacuated from Mariupol, Manhush, Burdiansk, Tokmak and Vasilievka are receiving humanitarian aid in Zaporizhzhya.
Osnat Lubrani, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said: “While this second evacuation of civilians from Mariupol and beyond is important, much must be done to ensure that all civilians captured in combat take the direction they wish. can go in.” ,
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko told the Associated Press that he did not think Russia’s military action in Ukraine “would pull this way”, but accused Ukraine of “provoking Russia” and not interested in peace talks. The Russian military used Belarus as a staging point before its February 24 invasion, acting on the pretext of military exercises as Putin denied he would attack Ukraine.
Belarus began its military exercises this week, but Lukashenko said there was no threat from them.
“We do not threaten anyone, and we will not and will not threaten,” Lukashenko told the news agency. “Also, we cannot threaten – we know who opposes us, so to start some kind of conflict, any kind of war in the West is absolutely not in the interest of the Belarusian state. Therefore, the West is at peace. can sleep.”
The head of Britain’s armed forces, Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Tony Radakin, said Putin is “trying to run for a tactical victory” ahead of Victory Day. But the Russian military is struggling to gain momentum, he said. Russia celebrates Victory Day, which marks the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany, on 9 May.
Radakin told British broadcaster Talk TV that Russia is using missiles and weapons in such a way that it is in a “logistics war” to maintain supplies.
“It’s going to be a tough slog,” he said.
Meanwhile, the World Food Program has received $26.4 million from the European Union to provide food aid for people affected by conflict in Ukraine and displaced from Ukraine in the Republic of Moldova.
WFP says more than 7.7 million people are displaced inside Ukraine and nearly half of the country is worried about finding enough to eat.
Some information has been received from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
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