Mariupol steel plant rescues civilians. They are now heading for safety

Russia has resumed pulverizing Mariupol's steel mill, which has been the last stronghold for resistance in the bombed out city.

Mariupol steel plant rescues civilians. They are now heading for safety

ZAPORIZHZHIA (UAP) -- Russia has resumed pulverizing Mariupol's steel mill, which has been the last stronghold for resistance in the bombed out city. Ukrainian fighters reported Monday that Russia had allowed civilians to evacuate the plant after a short cease-fire on the weekend.

According to video and authorities, more than 100 people, including elderly women and mothers of small children, left the Azovstal steelworks rubble-strewn site on Sunday. They boarded buses and ambulances to travel to Zaporizhzhia (Ukraine-controlled), about 140 miles (230 km) to the northwest.

Sergei Orlov, Mariupol's Deputy Mayor, said to the BBC that the evacuees had been making slow progress and wouldn't arrive in Zaporizhzhia as planned Monday. The delay was not explained by authorities.

At least some civilians were taken to a village under the control of Russia-backed separatists. According to the Russian military, some of them chose to remain in separatist areas while others fled for Ukrainian-held territory.

Ukraine has in the past accused Moscow of taking civilians from Russia or Russian-controlled territories. It has been denied by the Kremlin.

After the partial evacuation, the Russian bombardment of the plant was carried out by air, tank, and ship. The Ukrainian Azov Battalion, which is protecting the mill, stated this via the Telegram messaging app.

Orlov stated that high-level talks were taking place between Russia, Ukraine and international organizations regarding the evacuation of more people.

If the steel-plant evacuation is successful, it would be a rare step towards easing the human suffering caused by the nearly 10-week war. Previous attempts to create safe passageways from the south port city and other locations have failed, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russian forces for shooting and shelling along established evacuation routes.

About 1,000 civilians and 2,000 Ukrainian defenders were thought to have been in the plant before the weekend evacuation. Russia demanded surrender from the fighters, but they refused.

Mariupol may have 100,000 residents, compared to the prewar population which was more than 400,000. Many areas of the city have been razed by Russian forces, leaving civilians without food, water or heat.

Mariupol residents were able to escape the city by using their often damaged cars.

As sunset neared, Yaroslav Dmytryshyn, a Mariupol resident, drove up to Zaporizhzhia's reception center in Zaporizhzhia with a back seat filled with children and two signs taped to his back window: "Children” and "Little ones."

He said, looking tired but happy to have survived the two-day journey.

He said, "There is no Mariupol at all." "Someone must rebuild it, and that will take millions upon millions of tons gold," he said. He claimed they lived right across the tracks from the steel plant. He said, "Ruined." "The factory has been destroyed completely."

Anastasiia Dembotska, her niece, and nephew, took advantage of the ceasefire to go with their family. She said that her family managed to survive by using a stove on the floor and well water. When she looked out, she said she could see the steelworks through her window.

She said that she could see "the rockets flying" as well as clouds of smoke above the plant.

According to a senior U.S. defense officer who spoke under anonymity to discuss the Pentagon's assessment, Mariupol is almost completely destroyed.

Other developments include the meeting of European Union energy ministers Monday to discuss new sanctions against Russia, which could include restrictions for Russian oil. Some of the 27-nation bloc's Russia-dependent members, such as Hungary and Slovakia are wary about taking harsh action.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, said that he hopes more people will be able leave Mariupol during an organized evacuation Monday. Residents who wanted to evacuate were told by the city council to meet at a shopping center to wait for buses.

Zelenskyy stated that the remaining civilians at the steel plant were scared to board buses as they feared being taken to Russia. According to Zelenskyy, he was assured by the U.N. they would be allowed access to areas under his government's control.

Denys Shlega (commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard) stated in a televised interview, that hundreds of civilians were still trapped along with nearly 500 wounded soldiers, and "numerous" dead bodies.

Shlega stated that "a number of small children are still in bunkers beneath the plant,"

Zelenskyy also stated Monday that 220 children from Ukraine have been killed in the Russian war on terror, while 1,570 educational institutions were destroyed or damaged.

In his unsuccessful bid to capture Kyiv, Russia's capital, Vladimir Putin has now shifted his attention to the Donbas. This is Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Russia claimed that it had struck numerous military targets in the area in the last day. According to Russia, it struck a concentration of troops, weapons and ammunition near Chervone in Zaporizhzhia's Zaporizhzhia Region, west of the Donbas.

Officials from the West and Ukraine claim that Moscow's troops are indiscriminately igniting fire, causing a serious toll on civilians, while making slow progress.

Zelenskyy's office reported that at least three people died in the Donbas over the past 24 hours. According to Zaporizhzhia's regional administration, at least two people were killed in Russian shelling.

MaksymMarchenko, the governor of Odesa, a region near the Black Sea Coast said that a Russian missile attack Monday on an Odesa infrastructure target had caused injuries and deaths. He gave no details. Zelenskyy claimed that the attack on a dormitory resulted in the death of a 14-year old boy.

According to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security Council, the missile attack ripped the roof off a church belonging the Ukrainian Orthodox faction, which is loyal to Moscow Patriarchate.

According to Ukraine, Russia also made a strategic road and railway bridge west of Odesa. It was severely damaged by previous Russian strikes and would be cut off from a supply route for weapons or other cargo from Romania.

Eight years after deadly clashes between Ukrainian government supporters and protesters calling to have autonomy in Ukraine's east, the attack on Odessa occurred. In 2014, pro-autonomy protesters were attacked by government supporters and a building housing trade union members was set on fire.

Monday also saw Ukraine claim to have destroyed two small Russian patrol vessels in the Black Sea.

Russia's east campaign is centered on Mariupol, which is located in the Donbas. Its capture would remove Ukraine from a crucial port and allow Russia to establish an air corridor to the Crimean Peninsula. Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 from Ukraine. This would also free up troops to fight elsewhere in the region.

It is difficult to capture a complete picture of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Reporters are restricted from reporting from the conflict zone because of the danger posed by the fighting.

The Defense Ministry of Britain said that more than 25% of the Russian fighting units deployed in Ukraine are "combat ineffective", meaning they cannot fight due to loss of equipment or troops.

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Varenytsia reported in Kyiv, Ukraine. This report was contributed by Associated Press journalists Yesica Fisch, Jon Gambrell, and Yuras Karamanau in Lviv. Also, Mstyslav Chernov and Lolita Baldor in Washington were part of this report.

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