The city is under Russian control, but some fighters and civilians have taken refuge underground in the Azovstal factory – a massive Soviet-era factory founded under Josef Stalin and designed with a labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels to withstand attacks. The UN later said an operation to evacuate people from the steel plant has been underway since Friday. UN spokesman Saviano Abreu said: “At this time, and as operations are underway, we will not share any further details,” he said.
The convoy had traveled 230 km to reach the steel mill, the ICRC said. A Reuters photographer spotted civilians arriving in the village of Bezimenne in an area of Donetsk controlled by Russian-backed separatists, about 30 km east of Mariupol. Children were among those evacuated from the factory. “The operation is (still) underway,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video address. Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak suggested that the evacuations could go further than the civilians. “This is only the first step and we will continue to move our civilians and troops out of Mariupol,” he wrote on Telegram.