July 17, 2024

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Ukrainian commander orders international evacuation effort at Mariupol plant as situation ‘critical’

The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday claiming that Russian forces had opened an evacuation corridor around the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a claim denied by a Ukrainian police official at the scene.

“Due to the catastrophic situation that arose at the Azovstal Metallurgical Plant in the city of Mariupol, and also guided by purely humanitarian principles, from 14:00 (2:00 p.m. Moscow time) on April 19, 2022, the Russian Armed Forces opened a humanitarian corridor for the withdrawal of Ukrainian military personnel,” the statement reads. who voluntarily laid down their arms and fighters of national formations. “For this purpose, a “ceasefire mode” was introduced, any hostilities were ceased, and units of the Russian Armed Forces and formations of the Donetsk People’s Republic along the entire Azovstal perimeter were withdrawn to a safe distance.

The statement also repeated the call for Ukrainian forces to surrender. “Recognizing that the commanders of Ukrainian units may not receive such orders and orders from the Kyiv authorities, we urge them to make the decision themselves and lay down their arms,” ​​the statement read.

Mihilo Vershinin, Mariupol patrol police chief, called Russian conditions “unacceptable” for the Ukrainian forces holding out at the plant.

“No one will agree with them,” he said. “Exits, corridors, etc., they’ve already announced it a thousand times.”

Vershinin said the Azovstal plant, where the Ukrainian defenders are resisting and civilians are sheltering, was bombed with “super-powerful bombs. And this will continue.”

A video of women and children, allegedly sheltering in the basement of the Azovstal factory in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol, surfaced Monday evening on social media. Vershinin said the Russians allowed some civilians to leave, but others were reluctant to get out of the city via evacuation routes that led into Russian-controlled territory.

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“Those who stayed in [Azovstal] Shelters are people who absolutely do not want to go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo [the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic]They want to go to Ukraine.”

“This is why we are asking: to organize a corridor, the safety of civilians must be ensured. The Russians think it is fake. It is not fake. This is a real video filmed in the factory shelters. We cannot go to all the shelters. Because of the constant bombing, we filmed in a shelter we can Access it, and there are hundreds of these around the area. [the Russians] Declare humanitarian corridors cease-fire. They say, get out, surrender, get the civilians out of here. Those civilians who wanted to leave, left. Those who remain will not go to the Russians. That is why we are asking for a humanitarian corridor to the Ukrainian side.”

Russia claims evacuation corridors will open Wednesday: Later on Tuesday evening, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that it had offered the besieged Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol a ceasefire starting Wednesday at 2:00 PM Moscow time (7:00 AM ET), claiming that the forces The Ukrainians have failed to take advantage of a previous offer to withdraw and lay down their arms.

The Russian statement said that the Russian armed forces and formations of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic will at that time stop hostilities along the perimeter of the besieged Azovstal steel plant and withdraw to a safe distance.

CNN’s Josh Pennington contributed reporting for this post.