UN Red Cross operation underway to evacuate civilians from hit Mariupol factory — Global Issues

“A safe passage operation…is underway today,” said Saviano Abreu of OCHA in Ukraine, adding that efforts are being “coordinated” by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, “in coordination with the parties to the conflict.”

According to reports, more than 100 civilians were allowed out in the first phase of the operation.

Abreu said Russian and Ukrainian authorities have agreed that civilians who have been at the heavily damaged steelworks for nearly two months, “women, children and the elderly”, will be evacuated to Zaporizka, which is under Ukrainian control. north of Mariupol.

Support for survivors

There, “they will receive immediate humanitarian support, including psychological services“, he said. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Ukraine, tweeted that they and other partner agencies were “ready to receive evacuees”, and hoping that “more evacuations will follow”.

General secretary António Guterres traveled to Moscow and met with President Vladimir Putin early last week, securing a deal from the Russian prime minister “in principle” to allow this weekend’s rescue operation after weeks of failed attempts to provide a safe humanitarian corridor for a mass evacuation.

After meeting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital Kiev on Thursday, the urgent imperative to end what Guterres called a “crisis within a crisis” of finally allowing civilians to leave the ravaged coastal city after weeks of Russian bombing, it was the subject of discussion. “intense discussions” between the two parties.

Civil security, paramount

Mr. Abreu said in a statement to correspondents released on Sunday that the operation began with a UN-Red Cross convoy leaving for Mariupol on Friday from Zaporizka, a journey of about 230 kilometers.

As operations are still ongoing, we will not provide further details at this time.”, he said, “to ensure the safety of civilians and humanitarians on the convoy”.

He concluded by saying that the UN “will continue to press for a safe exit from the city of Mariupol for all civilians who wish to leave. The UN is actively engaging with parties to advance these efforts..”

If the evacuees can reach safety, it would be the first time that a convoy organized by humanitarian agencies has managed to secure the passage of civilians, who have been under fire from Russian heavy weapons and aerial bombardment, since the early days of the Russian invasion. .

The death toll inside Mariupol is unknown, but the city’s mayor reported that more than 20,000 civilians were killed.

The last Ukrainian soldiers who left the city’s defense were hidden inside the vast Soviet-era steel mill – along with hundreds of civilians – which has a series of labyrinthine bunkers and tunnels, which prevented Russian forces from protecting the last pockets of resistance. .

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