Ukrainian port city of Mariupol begins evacuations

Civilians will begin evacuating from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, city officials said, after surrounding Russian forces announced a ceasefire to allow its population to leave.

Mariupol, a southern city of about 450,000 people on the Sea of ​​Azov, will begin evacuations at 09:00 GMT, the town hall announced on social media in a message adding that “it will be possible to leave the city by private transport “.

“A huge request to all drivers leaving the city, to contribute as much as possible to the evacuation of the civilian population – bring people with you, fill the vehicles as much as possible,” the statement read.

The announcement stated that the evacuation would last several days to allow the entire civilian population to leave the city.

In the statement, city officials told residents leaving in private vehicles that it was “strictly prohibited” to deviate from evacuation routes.

Municipal buses were also leaving from three locations in the city to help people leave, according to the message.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on social media that some 200,000 people would have to be pulled out of the city.

She wrote that another 15,000 people would be brought in from Volnovakha, a town of about 20,000 people about 60 kilometers (38 miles) from Donetsk, a separatist-controlled regional center.

The Russian Defense Ministry had earlier announced a ceasefire regime from 07:00 GMT to allow evacuations.

“It’s not an easy decision, but, as I’ve always said, Mariupol is not its streets or its houses. Mariupol is its people, it’s you and me,” Mayor Vadim Boychenko said. in the press release.

With Russian troops surrounding the town, he said, “there is no choice but to allow the locals – that is, you and me – to leave Mariupol safely.” , did he declare.

Russia news

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