Thousands Evacuated from Devastated Ukrainian City Mariupol

Thousands of people were successfully evacuated by buses from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Friday, according to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called the situation there a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Zelenskyy said in a video address early Saturday that a humanitarian corridor was operational in Zaporizhzhia, allowing for the evacuation of 3,071 residents from Mariupol.

Tens of thousands of people have been trapped in the besieged city, with scant access to food and water.

A service member of pro-Russian troops stands on the ruins of a destroyed apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 30, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The Red Cross said that its team tried to facilitate safe passage out of Mariupol on Friday but they had to turn back and return to Zaporizhzhia after encountering conditions that “made it impossible to proceed.”

“We will try again tomorrow,” the Red Cross said, adding that, “it’s critical the parties respect agreements and provide the necessary security guarantees.”

On a number of occasions, Russia and Ukraine have agreed to humanitarian corridors to facilitate the evacuation of civilians, but those efforts have often ended in failure, with both sides trading blame.

Seven such corridors were planned for Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Ukrainian rescue workers carry an elderly woman under the destroyed bridge in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 1, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo)

Mariupol is a key target of Moscow’s military operation and has been subjected to extensive bombardment.

Seizing the city would let Russian forces secure a land bridge to Crimea and consolidate their grip along the Black Sea coast along southeastern Ukraine.

‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’

Zelenskyy said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday about the humanitarian situation in Ukrainian cities shelled by Russian forces, including in Mariupol.

“Europe has no right to react in silence to what is happening in our Mariupol. The whole world must react to this humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

Mariupol has seen some of the worst suffering of the war. Around 100,000 people are believed to remain in the city, down from around 430,000 before the outbreak of hostilities. Weeks of bombardment and urban combat have led to severe shortages of water, food, fuel, and medicine.

“We are running out of adjectives to describe the horrors that residents in Mariupol have suffered,” Red Cross spokesperson Ewan Watson said.

An elderly woman crosses a street near a building damaged in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 1, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Ukraine)

Tamila Mazurenko, an evacuee from Mariupol, expressed exasperation at the situation there, in remarks to The Associated Press.

“I have only one question. Why? We only lived as normal people. And our normal life was destroyed. And we lost everything,” she said, adding that she’s lost her job and can’t find her son, who lived in a different part of the city near the frontline.

Local residents sit on a bench near an apartment building destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 25, 2022. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

‘Hopes for Peace’

Discussions are underway between Ukraine and Russia about the removal of the wounded and dead from Mariupol, Zelenskyy said, with Turkey serving as a mediator.

Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both countries, and has sought to mediate the conflict. A key goal in Turkey’s mediation effort has been to bring together the Ukrainian and Russian presidents for peace talks.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that he had spoken by phone in recent days with both Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Erdogan said he conveyed to Putin his desire to “crown the peace efforts” by bringing the two leaders together for talks. He told Zelenskyy that he believes Turkey-mediated talks had thus far added a “meaningful momentum” to efforts to end the war.

The Turkish president said that “hopes for peace had been revived” since negotiators from both sides met earlier in Istanbul for talks.

At the conclusion of the talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, Russia said it would start scaling down operations near Kyiv as a sign of goodwill.

Western leaders were skeptical of Moscow’s declaration, calling it a smokescreen for repositioning troops for renewed attacks in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s ministry of defense later said its forces have completed regrouping operations around Kyiv and were poised for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.

“The objective of the regrouping of the Russian Armed Forces is to intensify action in priority areas and, above all, to complete the operation for the total liberation of Donbass,” the ministry said.

NTD Photo
A man rides his bike past a destroyed Russian tank in Trostyanets, Ukraine, on March 30, 2022. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The Donbass region in eastern Ukraine encompasses the two separatist-controlled so-called “people’s republics” that Russia claims it is helping to liberate.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were continuing to advance against withdrawing Russian forces around Kyiv, British intelligence said Saturday.

Zelenskyy warned that even though Russian forces were withdrawing from the vicinity of Kyiv, it wasn’t  safe for Ukrainians to return due to mines and booby traps.

As Russian forces are leaving, “they are mining all this territory. Mining houses, equipment, even the bodies of killed people,” Zelenskyy said.

“Too many tripwire mines, too many other dangers.”

From The Epoch Times