Escape From Mariupol
Civilian evacuations are underway at a Mariupol steel plant that has become the last holdout against Russia’s quest to control the strategic port city, the deputy commander of a Ukrainian regiment said in a video shared Saturday on Telegram. An estimated 1,000 civilians and more soldiers taking shelter in the Azovstal steel plant’s underground bunkers are running out of food, water, and medicine. Still, they continue to hold out against Russian forces.
Deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, said 20 women and children have left in the hope of being taken to Zaporizhzhia, a city about 130 miles to the northwest where evacuees have been shuttled. Mykhailo Vershynin, chief of the Donetsk regional patrol police, told reporters that a first group had been taken to a collection point, where more civilians are expected to be taken Sunday before traveling to Zaporizhzhia in a convoy.
Conditions Likened To A Concentration Camp
Russian forces have managed to reduce large parts of Mariupol to ruins around the vast complex and its underground catacombs, where Palamar and his Ukrainian contingent are making a last stand. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who claimed control of the city last week, said the plant should be sealed off so that “not a fly” could escape.
Palamar is defiantly quoted as saying:
“As long as we’re here and holding the defense… the city is not theirs.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was quoted last Friday as saying that Mariupol is currently “like a Russian concentration camp among the ruins.”
People in the Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout still under Ukrainian control in the city, are protected to an extent by underground bunkers in the Soviet-era facility. But Russians have been dropping 3,000-pound bunker-buster bombs, making the situation even more dire.
Begging to Be Saved
“Locals who manage to leave Mariupol say it is hell, but when they leave this fortress, they say it is worse,” Mayor Vadym Boichenko said, according to a translator. “They are begging to get saved.”
Captain Palamar says that he hopes to evacuate all citizens from the Azovstal plant as quickly as possible. He added that a cease-fire scheduled to go into effect at 6:00 am local time instead started at 11:00 am and that “it is true at the present moment” that both sides were abiding by it.
Evacuation buses arrived at 6:25 pm., and by 7:40 pm, the civilians were delivered to “the agreed location.”
“These are women with children, old people, and we hope to continue this process and be able to evacuate all civilians,” Palamar said.
Evacuating civilians from Mariupol, particularly from the Azovstal steel plant, has become a point of contention between Russia and Ukraine. Ukrainian leaders have accused Russian troops of violating cease-fires and taking those hoping to escape Mariupol to Russia against their will.
Supplies of food, water, and medicine have been dwindling as the war drags on into its fourth month.
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