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President Zelensky: A prolonged truce is needed to evacuate the people of Mariupol

President Zelensky: An armistice is needed to evacuate the people of Mariupol - Photo 1.

A Ukrainian family evacuates from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine May 3, 2022. Photo: Reuters

After failing to capture the capital Kiev during the first weeks of hostilities, Russia turned to the east and south of Ukraine, with the port city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov being one of Moscow’s main targets.

Russia declared victory at Mariupol on April 21 after weeks of siege and shelling. The city is key to Moscow’s efforts to separate Ukraine from the Black Sea, as well as to link it to territory controlled by Russia.

The United Nations and the Red Cross evacuated hundreds of people from Mariupol and other areas this week. However, about 200 civilians, as well as Ukrainian soldiers, are still trapped in an underground bunker system at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials.

Russia announced that it will suspend military operations in Azovstal for 3 days from May 5 to allow civilians to go out. In an early morning speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country was also ready to guarantee a ceasefire in Mariupol.

Mr. Zelensky said: “It will take time to get people out of the underground shelters. In the current conditions, we cannot use heavy equipment to clear the rubble. All must be done. do it manually”.

In the early days of the week, Russia resumed attacks on the factory, breaking an earlier ceasefire after accusing Ukrainian soldiers hiding in the factory of using it to escape and change positions. Ukraine has denied this.

Denis Prokopenko, a commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, said that the soldiers inside the Azovstal factory were confronting the Russian army. A Ukrainian lawmaker added that Russian forces were inside the factory. Mariupol authorities also lost contact with the soldiers inside since last night 4/5.

According to Osnat Lubrani, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, more than 300 civilians were evacuated on May 4 from Mariupol and other areas in southern Ukraine as part of a joint Red Cross operation. and the United Nations.

“We need to do more to make sure that all the civilians caught up in the fighting can leave safely,” Lubrani said.

It is unclear whether further UN evacuations have been planned.

Russia began a special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, which Moscow claims is aimed at disarming Ukraine and protecting Russian-speaking populations. In response, Kiev and its Western allies called the Russian campaign unprovoked and “unacceptable”.

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