Evacuations facilitated by a United Nations-International Red Cross (ICRC) brokered agreement with Russian and Ukrainian forces on 1 May have stalled, according to reports from Reuters.
Ukraine’s Eastern city of Mariupol, which sits on the shores of the Azov sea, has been under siege by Russian forces since 2 March.
After fierce street fighting, Ukrainian forces, and much of the city’s civilian population, have been forced into a desperate last stand in the many underground tunnels of the city’s coastal Azovstal steel plant.
Around 95% of the city has been completely destroyed by enemy shelling. Remaining citizens, estimated to be in their thousands, have been left without water, gas, electricity, or basic necessities.
The Avozstal factory area is being held by several hundred troops from the Azov Battalion, a volunteer militia absorbed into the Ukrainian army in 2014. The battalion has been often criticised for its ties to the far-right.
Azov Battalion members have refused Russian calls to surrender the city, but have worked with humanitarian organisations to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the city, which is often forestalled by Russian shelling.
Thousands of civilians are presumed dead or buried beneath the rubble of the besieged city.
The first humanitarian corridors were carried out on Sunday, which succeeded in evacuating around 100 women, children, and elderly from the Azovstal plant, according to Radio Svoboda. The first refugees are expected to arrive in Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia sometime on Monday, 2 May.
Set-backs to evacuations
However, new evacuations of civilians from Mariupol have faced problems.
Shortly after the 1 May evacuations, Russian forces resumed their shelling of the city. The Mariupol City Council states that buses had not been able to reach an agreed pick-up point to collect fleeing locals, contradicting earlier reports that buses had already left the city this morning.
Locals have been told to wait at the agreed pickup point. Hundreds of civilians still remain trapped in the tunnels of the Azovstal steel plant.
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It is not known what has interrupted the arrival of the humanitarian convoy. Previous convoys have been hindered by Russian shelling and indirect enemy fire.
Other civilians managed to escape the city, but into areas controlled by pro-Russian forces. Russian forces evacuated citizens of Mariupol to a camp in the occupied village of Bezimenne, accompanied by UN and ICRC personnel.
Russia’s so-called reception centres have been accused of being “filtration camps” for forced deportations to Russia.