Evacuations underway in Mariupol as Nancy Pelosi visits Ukraine to show US support

A long-awaited effort to evacuate people from a steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol is underway, the United Nations said.

t come, as the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, announced her visit Ukraine‘s President to show unabashed American support for the country’s defense Russian aggression.

United Nations humanitarian aid spokesman Saviano Abreu told The Associated Press that the operation to get people out of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant is being carried out with the International Committee of the Red Cross and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Up to 100,000 people are believed to still remain in blockaded Mariupol, including up to 1,000 civilians huddled with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian militants under the Soviet-era steelworks – the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians .

Abreu called the situation “very complex” and declined to give any further details.

As with other evacuations, the success of the Mariupol mission depended on Russia and its forces, who were stationed at a long line of checkpoints before reaching the Ukrainian ones.

Zaporizhia, a city about 227 km northwest of Mariupol, is the expected destination of the evacuation effort.

Zaporizhzhia was the target of Mariupol residents who managed to flee the city when earlier evacuations organized by the Red Cross and Ukraine had to be canceled due to ongoing bombing or concerns about route safety.

The United Nations said the convoy to evacuate civilians started on Friday and traveled about 230 km before reaching the Mariupol plant on Saturday morning.

People fleeing Russian-held territories have occasionally described their vehicles as having been shot at. Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes agreed by both sides.

Russia’s high-level offensive on southern Ukraine’s coast and in the country’s eastern industrial heartland has Ukrainian forces fighting village by village and more civilians fleeing airstrikes and artillery shelling as war draws closer to their doorsteps.

Pelosi, a California Democrat who is second in line to succeed the president, is the oldest American lawmaker to travel to Ukraine since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Her Saturday visit came just days after Russia fired rockets at the capital during a visit by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

During a news conference Sunday in the Polish city of Rzeszow, Pelosi said she and other members of a US congressional delegation spent three hours meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and “brought him a message of gratitude from the American people for his leadership .”

Rep. Jason Crow, a US Army veteran and a member of the House Intelligence and Military Committees, said he came to Ukraine with three priorities: “guns, guns and guns.”


A woman sits with children as evacuees, including civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the village of Bezimenne in Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 1, 2022 arrive at the temporary accommodation center. REUTERS/ Alexander Ermochenko

“We have to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need to win. What we’ve seen over the past two months is their ferocity, their intense pride, their ability to fight and their ability to win when they have the support to do so,” said the Colorado Democrat.

Russian forces have launched a major military operation to capture significant parts of southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to capture Kyiv. Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of ​​Azov, is a key destination due to its strategic location near the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia captured from Ukraine in 2014.

“All leaders of the free world know what Russia did to Mariupol. And Russia will not go unpunished for this,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. He warned that Russia is “assembling additional forces for new attacks against our military in the east of the country”.

Limited evacuations from the city took place on Saturday, but details were unclear given the number of parties involved in the negotiations and the volatile situation on the ground.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that a total of 46 people, a group of 25 and another 21, were evacuated from areas near the Azovstal plant.

A senior official of the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the steel plant, said Saturday that 20 women and children were evacuated from the plant itself. Civilians hid in a maze of underground tunnels while the plant was under siege.

In a video published on the regiment’s Telegram channel, regiment deputy commander Sviatoslav Palamar called for the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian fighters, as well as civilians. “We don’t know why they are not being taken away and their evacuation to Ukrainian-controlled territory is not being discussed,” he said.


Civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, accompanied by a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the Ukraine-Russia conflict, walk at a makeshift reception center in the village of Bezimenne in Donetsk region, Ukraine , on April 1 , 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

An Associated Press journalist saw women and children arrive in Bezimenne, a village controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, accompanied by United Nations and Red Cross officials. The UN did not confirm that people were able to leave Mariupol on Saturday.

Elsewhere in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, about 20 elderly adults and children with bags along with their dogs and cats boarded a minivan on Saturday in the town of Lyman, where at least half the population has fled Russian shelling. The van, marked with a sign reading “Evacuation of children” in Ukrainian, was speeding towards the city of Dnipro when explosions were heard in the distance.

“The liberators came and freed us from what? Our lives?” said Nina Mihaylenko, a professor of Russian language and literature, referring to the Russian armed forces.

Undeterred by air raid sirens and warnings to take shelter at home, people in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia visited cemeteries on Sunday as Ukrainians celebrated the Orthodox Christian Day of the Dead.

“If our dead could rise and see that, they would say, ‘It’s not possible, they’re worse than the Germans,'” said Hennadiy Bondarenko, 61, while celebrating the day with his family at a picnic table among the graves. “All of our dead would join the fighting, including the Cossacks.”

It has been difficult to get a full picture of the unfolding battle in eastern Ukraine, as airstrikes and artillery shelling have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move. Also, both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels have imposed severe restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

However, Western military analysts have indicated that the offensive in the Donbass region, which includes Mariupol, went much slower than planned. So far, Russian troops and the separatists appear to have made little gains in the month since Moscow announced it would concentrate its military strength in the east.

Video and images from inside the Mariupol Steel Plant provided to The Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands are among the fighters refusing to surrender there showed unidentified men with stained bandages ; others had open wounds or amputated limbs.

At least 600 wounded were treated by a medical skeleton staff, said the women, who identified their husbands as members of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard. Some of the wounds were rotted from gangrene, they said.

The AP could not independently verify the date and location of the video, which the women said was taken last week in the maze of corridors and bunkers beneath the facility.

In terms of numbers, Russia’s military manpower far exceeds that of Ukraine. In the days leading up to the war, Western intelligence estimated that Russia had up to 190,000 troops stationed near the border; The standing military of Ukraine is about 200,000 spread across the country.

With plenty of firepower still in reserve, Russia’s offensive could intensify and overrun the Ukrainians. In total, the Russian army has an estimated 900,000 active personnel. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid have flowed to Ukraine since the war began, but Russia’s vast arsenal of weapons means Ukraine will continue to need vast amounts of assistance.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/evacuations-underway-in-mariupol-as-nancy-pelosi-visits-ukraine-to-demonstrate-us-support-41605435.html Evacuations underway in Mariupol as Nancy Pelosi visits Ukraine to show US support

Fry Electronics Team

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