The Ukrainian government has asked Médecins Sans Frontères (MSF) to help evacuate and treat soldiers entrenched at the Azovstal iron and steel factory in Mariupol, Belga News Agency reports.
The request came in a letter from Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Verechtchouk to Michel-Olivier Lacharité, head of the humanitarian organisation’s emergency programmes and its bureau chief in Ukraine, according to a statement from the Ministry for the Reintegration of Territories Temporarily Occupied in Ukraine.
The statement was made public a few hours after an announcement that civilians were to be evacuated from the steel complex, which was the last pocket of Ukrainian armed resistance in the port city, besieged and devastated by the Russian army.
Based on the principles that guide the work of MSF, the ministry called on the humanitarian organization to organise a mission to evacuate the defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal and to care for the wounded, whose human rights have been violated by the Russian Federation, according to the statement.
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The defenders of the huge industrial site have been there for 72 consecutive days under the ceaseless bombing and attacks by the Russian army, the ministry said, adding that wounded soldiers were dying of gangrene and septicemia.
Earlier on Saturday, Kyiv had announced that all civilian women, children and elderly persons who had been holed up with the soldiers at the industrial site had been evacuated from its maze of underground rooms dating back to the Soviet era.
On Friday, 50 of the most vulnerable civilians were able to leave the steel complex in the southeastern port city.
The evacuation operation, which has been going on for a week now under the aegis of the United Nations and the International Red Cross, has enabled close to 500 civilians to flee Mariupol, official sources in Kyiv report.