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Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday that the humanitarian mission in Mariupol was “over” and that all women, children and the elderly had been removed from the Azovstal steelworks.
“All women, children and elderly people have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over,” Vereshchuk said on social media.
The fate of the Ukrainian troops entrenched in the factory tunnels remains uncertain.
Hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been locked in the deep tunnels under the steelworks for months seeking shelter from Russia’s assault on the port city.
RUSSIA MOVES FORCES TO MARIUPOL AHEAD OF ‘VICTORY DAY PARADE’, OFFICIALS WORK TO RESCUE TRAPPED TROOPS
Ukraine and international officials have urged Russia for weeks to halt its relentless bombing campaign on the already pulverized factory to allow for humanitarian evacuations.
Ukrainian soldiers refused to surrender to Russian forces and urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to draw up an evacuation plan for them.
Officials fear the last Ukrainian checkpoint in Mariupol could be annihilated by Russian forces as they seek to end resistance in the port city in time for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘Victory Day’ parade on May 9.
Civilian evacuations brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross began last week to evacuate around 200 people holed up in the tunnels.
But as recently as Friday, evacuations were blocked due to Russia’s continued assault on the plant.
The Mariupol City Council said Russia violated Friday’s ceasefire and used anti-tank guided missiles to hit a car driven by Ukrainian servicemen.
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“This car was heading towards civilians in order to evacuate them from the factory,” the council said in a Telegram message. “As a result of the bombing, one fighter was killed and six injured.
The message included graphic images of a bloodied soldier whose arm was badly injured and wrist appeared to be broken.
It remains unclear if the civilian men have also been allowed to evacuate or if they remain with the Ukrainian soldiers.