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Evacuation buses from Melitopol under Russian control, Ukrainian officials say


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced on Friday that it was sending humanitarian aid from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol in the form of “three cars and nine personnel”.

Speaking at a virtual United Nations briefing on Ukraine, ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said teams traveling from Zaporizhzhia hoped to “assist in the safe crossing operation”, but added that “this effort has been and remains extremely complex,” with a full plan not “yet in place to ensure it happens in a safe manner.”

“Today we remain hopeful that we are moving action towards Mariupol. Obviously that’s a good thing, but it’s not yet clear that it will happen today,” Watson said.

“If and when this happens, the role of the ICRC as a neutral intermediary will be to direct the convoy from a large part of Mariupol to another city in Ukraine. We are unable to confirm which city at this time as this is something the parties must agree to. The latest information we have is that there will potentially be 54 buses, and we can expect many more civilian vehicles,” Watson added.

Watson reiterated that the evacuation from Mariupol – which is expected to include thousands of people – can only take place if specific criteria are met.

“The details we insist on cementing in place include the exact route of safe passage, its exact start time and duration. We have to be sure the ceasefire holds of course we have to be sure that this humanitarian convoy can safely pass through military checkpoints,” Watson said.

Local residents walk past a destroyed building in the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 31. (Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters)

Watson then spoke of the horrors seen in this conflict in Ukraine, particularly in Mariupol, while emphasizing the importance that “people are allowed to leave and that the aid provided is allowed in”.

We lack adjectives to describe the horrors suffered by the inhabitants of Mariupol. The situation is dire and deteriorating and it is now a humanitarian imperative that people be allowed to leave and aid supplies be allowed in. »

“Residents of Mariupol have endured weeks of heavy fighting with dwindling water, food and medical supplies,” Watson added.

A bit of context: Residents of the southern port city face a deteriorating humanitarian situation amid Russian airstrikes, weeks of shelling by Russian forces and stifled evacuation efforts.

Statistics released by Ukrainian officials on Sunday paint a grim picture of what happened after weeks of destruction in Mariupol.

Some 90% of the city’s residential buildings were damaged, according to the data. Of these, 60% were directly hit and 40% were destroyed.

Seven of the city’s hospitals – 90% of its hospital capacity – were damaged, three of which were destroyed. Three maternities (one destroyed), seven institutes of higher education (three destroyed) and 57 schools and 70 kindergartens were also damaged, with 23 and 28 destroyed respectively.

A number of factories were damaged and the city’s port suffered damage.

According to these official statistics, up to 140,000 people left the city before it was surrounded, and about 150,000 managed to leave during the blockade. Ukrainian officials say 30,000 people from Mariupol have been deported to Russia.

CNN’s Nathan Hodge and Julia Presniakova contributed to this post.


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