Major fires break out at a Russian military facility in Belgorod

Natalia Usmanova, a 37-year-old employee of the Azovstal steel plant, who was evacuated from Mariupol, arrived at a temporary shelter during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the village of Bizymeni in Donetsk region, Ukraine on May 1 (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement that the ICRC is working with the United Nations in an ongoing operation to move people from Mariupol and the besieged Azovstal iron plant.

The International Committee of the Red Cross confirms that the process of safe passage is underway in coordination with the United Nations and the parties to the conflict. The statement said that the convoy for evacuating civilians began on April 29, traveling about 230 kilometers and reaching the plant in Mariupol on Saturday morning local time. “The ICRC insists on the fact that no details can be shared until the situation allows, as this could seriously jeopardize the safety of civilians and the convoy. The relevant local authorities are communicating with civilians about operational details.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in a tweet Sunday that “the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has begun.”

“The first group of about 100 people is already heading to the controlled area,” he added.

Mariupol city council said Sunday that there is a “chance” to evacuate civilians from the besieged city Mariupol.

The council urged people to gather at 4pm local time (9am ET) near a shopping center called “Port City” in order to evacuate them to the southern district of Zaporizhzhia.

“If you have relatives or acquaintances in Mariupol, try to contact them by all means. Call, send a text and say that it is possible to go to Zaporozhye, where it is safe,” the council said on Telegram.

“We pray that everything will work,” she added.

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And the local Telegram channel said earlier that until 3 pm local time, a “green corridor” will be opened for citizens wishing to enter “enemy-controlled” territory in the Kamensky region.

There are still about 100,000 people in Mariupol, although most of the city has been badly damaged by weeks of bombing and airstrikes by Russian forces.

Ukrainian officials gave more details about evacuating civilians who were trapped at the steep Azovstal plant.

“Today is the third day of a special operation that we call“ the evacuation of Azovstal,” said David Arakhamia, adviser to President Zelensky. “Since the beginning of the war, since the beginning of the Azovstal siege, we have managed to withdraw more than 100 civilians – young children, women and the elderly. “

Deputy Prime Minister Irina Verychuk said on Ukrainian TV: “Sorry, we were silent. We really wanted everything to work. Our silence was for people to get out alive and unharmed. More than 100 people have been evacuated, and the evacuation is continuing. All this It happened thanks to the control of Ukrainian President Zelensky, Antonio Guterres, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and we are very grateful for that.”

Some more context: Mariupol is home to Azovstal Steel FactoryWhich has been subjected to intense Russian bombing in recent weeks. Hundreds of people, including dozens injured, are believed to be inside the steelmaking complex.

Russian news agency TASS reported that, according to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, 80 civilians have now been rescued from the “territories” of the Azovstal plant and evacuated to a Russian-controlled complex a few miles away.

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It is unclear whether any of them came from inside the factory itself, where hundreds of civilians were bombed for weeks.

“Civilians who were evacuated by Russian soldiers from the Azovstal plant, who wished to leave for the areas controlled by the Kyiv regime, were handed over to representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry said.

The report followed comments from a Ukrainian commander inside the factory who said Some civilians have been evacuated of steel works after the implementation of the cease-fire.

It was hoped that these civilians, all women and children, would head to the “agreed destination” of Zaporizhzhya, Captain Svyatoslav Balamar said.

CNN’s Kostan Nechiporenko contributed to this report.

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