A satellite image for distribution shows destroyed buildings around downtown Mariupol
About 100 civilians have been evacuated from a besieged steel plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday.
The UN earlier said a ‘safe passage operation’ was underway at the Azovstal plant, the last dam in the Black Sea port city which has suffered a Russian blockade throughout the conflict which began on February 24.
The UN did not specify how many civilians it was carrying, and it was not immediately clear why the parties gave different figures.
“The evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has begun,” Zelensky said on Twitter, adding that they were due to arrive in Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia on Monday.
The Russian Defense Ministry earlier confirmed that civilians were leaving, releasing video showing cars and buses driving around in the dark marked with a “Z”, the letter used by Russian forces in the conflict.
Pope Francis used his weekly prayer to renew his call for humanitarian corridors from the city, saying it had been “barbarically bombarded and destroyed”.
“Don’t be bullied by bullies,” US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a news conference in Rzeszow, southern Poland, on Sunday after returning from Ukraine.
Pelosi met Zelensky on Saturday, becoming the most important American figure to visit since the start of the war.
Western powers have also hit Russia with unprecedented sanctions and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday more measures were in the works.
– Introduction of the Russian ruble –
The Russian Defense Ministry also said on Sunday it used high-precision Onyx missiles to strike a hangar at a military airfield near the Black Sea port city of Odessa, housing US weapons. and European countries and destroys the track.
Russia moved to tighten its grip on the areas it controls and on Sunday introduced the Russian ruble to the Kherson region, which was initially to be used alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.
He said there would be a four-month period when the hryvnia could be used, but then “we will completely switch to ruble settlements.”
On the eastern front line, Russian troops have advanced slowly but steadily in some areas – aided by heavy use of artillery – but Ukrainian forces have also retaken some territory in recent days, notably around the city from Kharkov.
“It was two months of terrible fear. Nothing else, terrible, unrelenting fear,” Natalia, a 28-year-old evacuee from Ruska Lozova, told AFP after reaching Kharkiv.
“Everyone understands that we have to hold the line here,” Lieutenant Yevgen Samoylov of the 81st Brigade told AFP as his unit moved away from the front line near the town of Svyatogirsk.