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Dozens of Ukrainian civilians rescued from ‘last bastion’ in Mariupol

Dozens more civilians were rescued and evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian forces besieged by Russian forces in the port city of Mariupol.

About 50 people were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant and handed over to representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross on May 6, according to Russian and Ukrainian officials, according to Russian and Ukrainian officials. The Russian military said there were 11 children in this group.

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A man evacuated from a steel plant in Mariupol (center) moves at a makeshift receiving center in the village of Bezimenne, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine May 6. Photo: Reuters

According to the official Russia and Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, evacuation efforts will resume on May 7. The newly facilitated evacuations are among the other 500 civilians who have left the Azovstal factory and the city of Mariupol in recent days.

The battle for the last stronghold of Kiev’s forces in a city that has been reduced to rubble by onslaughts by Russian troops seems to be becoming more and more fierce, amid speculation that General President Vladimir Putin may want to end the battle in Mariupol so that he can announce victory to the Russian people on the 77th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two (May 9).

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Close-up of the Azovstal steel factory area being shelled by Russian forces. Photo: Reuters

According to the most recent Russian estimate, nearly 2,000 Ukrainian gunmen are hiding in the vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the Azovstal steel factory complex and they have repeatedly refused to surrender. Ukrainian officials said before the May 6 evacuation that several hundred civilians were also trapped there, and expressed concern for their safety as fighting became more intense. .

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Russian tanks are shelling a target near the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment inside the factory, begged for the lives of the gunmen who remained inside the Azovstal. She affirmed, they are ready to go to a third country to wait for the war to end but will never surrender to the Russians. This woman said, if nothing is done to save the lives of her husband and comrades, they will “resist to the last breath, not lay down their weapons”.

UN officials have remained silent about the evacuation efforts, but it is likely that the latest group of evacuees will be taken to Zaporizhzhia, a city under Ukrainian control, about 230km from Mariupol northwest, the destination of others who had escaped from the port city besieged by Russian forces.

Several successful evacuees have told reporters of the horror of facing death in moldy underground bunkers with little food and water left, poor medical care and hope. increasingly cooled off. Some confided that they felt guilty for leaving others behind.

Writing on the Telegram page on May 6, the gunmen Ukraine in Azovstal alleges that Russian soldiers opened fire on an evacuation vehicle on the factory premises. They said the vehicle was shelled while moving towards civilians, killing one soldier and injuring six.

Moscow has not yet responded to a request for comment. With the exception of the steel mill, Russian forces gained control of Mariupol after bombarding the city for almost two months.

Prior to Victory Day, workers and volunteers in Mariupol cleaned up what was left of the city, which had a population of more than 400,000 before the war. An estimated 100,000 civilians are still trapped here with little food, water, electricity and heating supplies.

In a speech on May 6, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian soldiers of “tortured Mariupol to death”. The United Nations has called on all sides to cease fire and establish humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from the southeastern Ukrainian city.

Tuan Anh

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