Sunday, October 2, 2022

Red Cross: 1K reaches security despite unsuccessful trip to Mariupol

GENEVA ( Associated Press) — Clashes echoed in the distance. sleeping in a car, or two nights in a Ukrainian monastery in a war zone. Fully operating numerous checkpoints manned by jumpy Ukrainian or Russian soldiers,

The director of the Ukraine Office of the International Committee of the Red Cross described these and other harrowing situations to a small but determined team that tried and failed to reach the besieged city of Mariupol in an attempt to evacuate civilians.

Humanitarian relief group teams left for Mariupol on Friday, but suspended the operation, described by the Red Cross as inadequate security guarantees. The three-vehicle, nine-man team tried again in the following days, expected to escort a convoy out of town, which is surrounded by Russian troops and has been low on food and other supplies for weeks.

They eventually managed to leave, accompanied by about 1,000 civilians, who on their own managed to make their way to Bardiansk, a city about 84 kilometers (52 mi) west of Mariupol, and reached Zaporizhzhya safely on Wednesday.A government-controlled city 206.5 kilometers (about 128 mi) to the north.

“The tension level is enormous. We are operating under a delicate ceasefire, You never know if it will be respected, ”said Pascal Hundt, head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine. “We are quite relieved that they managed to return.”

The ICRC had previously said about 500 people had been pulled out, but Hundt said the last count was nearly double when many people fell into the moving caravans behind Red Cross vehicles.

Hundt told the Associated Press in a video call from the western Ukrainian city of Kamianets-Podilsky that security officials told the team that conditions en route to Mariupol prevented the evacuation operation from proceeding.

“When you travel in convoy with buses, you have to stop at the checkpoint. You have to explain who you are, what you are doing there. Maybe they don’t necessarily know about you coming in, and then it takes time, and then you move on to the next one and you start all over again,” he said. “There is a curfew in the evening. People can’t move. Everyone, including the jawans, gets tensed at the post.”

Hundt described his team – of which he was not a part – the race to run before nightfall, when traveling is more dangerous.

“It took us five days to do that operation. Five days… to do a little over 200 kms. You can imagine the difficulties we faced, ”he said, referring to the distance between Zaporizhzhya to Mariupol.

The Red Cross said that one night, police detained members of the team before finally releasing them. Hundt said the team found a monastery for sleeping and bathing.

“There were people there, and they gave us a very warm welcome,” he said. “And it was a great relief to find this hospitality from the monastery, after spending the night either in the car or at the petrol station.”

He added that the ICRC is still trying to arrange a mass evacuation from Mariupol and has asked Ukrainian and Russian authorities for four days of clearance, so there is time to evacuate more people.

“I think it’s important to give these people a chance to get the hell out there, because it’s really an apocalyptic situation out there,” Hund said.

The Red Cross says it does not have an estimate of how many civilians are left in Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of more than 400,000. Ukrainian officials have estimated the number at around 160,000.

The Geneva-based ICRC this week sent teams of medical personnel and weapons experts to evacuate Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.To assess the needs in suburbs such as , Buka and Irpin. alleged atrocities against civilians These were discovered after the withdrawal of Russian forces from the cities around Kyiv. ,

“What I can tell you is that the needs are just huge,” Hundt said. “The evidence we’re getting is heartbreaking, and it’s still alarming.”


Follow Associated Press’s all coverage of the war in Ukraine

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