Hundreds of civilians have been evacuated by humanitarian organisations from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Monday, while many are still trapped in the Azovstal steel works factory following renewed bombardment by Russian troops.
A first group of evacuees was due to arrive in a Ukrainian-held town northwest of Mariupol on Monday morning but resumed shelling by Russian forces on Sunday stalled the initial plan.
Around 100 civilians evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks were due to arrive in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, 230 km northwest of Mariupol, on Monday.
“People still stuck there were running out of water, food and medicine as Russian forces hemmed them into the industrial complex, whose network of bunkers and tunnels has provided shelter from weeks of Russian bombardment.
“The situation has become a sign of a real humanitarian catastrophe,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on television.
“For the first time, we had two days of a ceasefire on this territory, and we managed to take out more than 100 civilians – women, children,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address.
Intense Russian bombardments were also hitting towns in eastern Ukraine on Monday, causing severe damage, the governor said.
The Russian military is now focusing on crushing resistance in Ukraine’s south and east after failing to capture Kyiv in the early weeks of the war, now in its third month, an international security expert said.
“Its assaults have flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million to flee the country. Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, has become emblematic of the brutality of the war and the suffering of ordinary people,” he added.