Ukraine demands the evacuation of a besieged steel plant – RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

Russia had halted operations at the vast steelworks to allow civilians to escape

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereschuk announced on Saturday that all women, children and elderly people trapped in the Azovstal complex in Mariupol had been evacuated. Russian forces had halted their assault on the factory to allow the escape of civilians, some of whom say they were held hostage by militants.

“The president’s order has been carried out: all women, children and elderly people have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over,” read a Telegram article from Vereschuk on Saturday evening.

Russia had kept a humanitarian corridor open from the factory between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Moscow time every day since Thursday. As Ukraine accused Russia of violating its self-imposed ceasefire, civilians left the factory, where several hundred had been locked up for up to two months.

Donetsk People’s Republic forces said on Saturday that 50 civilians had left the factory for their territory that day, while the UN said that 500 civilians had been evacuated from the facility overnight. Thursday to Friday.

Russian politicians and military sources have accused Ukrainian soldiers and neo-Nazi militias – including the infamous Azov regiment – ​​who occupy the plant of detaining civilians there to barter supplies. In video footage published and later deleted by German magazine Der Spiegel, an evacuee said her family had been kept “in a bunker” under Azovstal for two months, and were banned by Azov activists from using the humanitarian corridors established by Russia.

Following Vereschuk’s statement, it’s unclear whether any male non-combatants remain at the Azovstal complex, a gargantuan Soviet-built factory complex spread over 11 square kilometers, with a dense maze of tunnels fortified and bunkers below.

Russia claims to have established full control over the entire port city of Mariupol, except for Azovstal. On April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin called off an operation to storm the factory, fearing heavy casualties among Russian troops, and instead ordered a full blockade of Ukrainian forces entrenched there. low. Reports in Ukrainian media claim that Russian forces nevertheless tried to storm the factory.

Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk Donbass. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.

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