A small mercy
About 100 civilians were evacuated Sunday from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian forces in the city are making a last stand in the facility's bunkers and tunnels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday. On Monday, "we'll meet them in Zaporizhzhia," controlled by Ukraine, he added. Russia's defense ministry said another 80 civilians have been evacuated from around the steelworks to Bezimenne, a village in Russian-held Ukraine.
The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross are coordinating the "safe passage operation." There are still hundreds of civilians and an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azovstal plant, plus another 100,000 civilians living in deplorable conditions in Russia-occupied Mariupol. "The citizens who left the city say that hell exists and it's in Mariupol," Mayor Vadym Boychenko told BBC News on Saturday.
Right after the first 100 civilians were evacuated, Russians began shelling Azovstal again, a Ukrainian National Guard commander told Ukrainian TV Sunday night. The Mariupol City Council said Ukraine will restart civilian evacuations on Monday morning, after the operation was suspended Sunday night for "security reasons."
Sviastoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine's Azov Regiment, told The Associated Press on Sunday that it's hard to even reach some of the wounded civilian and fighters at the plant, given all the rubble, plus mines and unexploded ordnance strewn across the plant. He said he is glad that the civilian evacuations had begun, and he would like the remaining troops to be able to leave also, but the Ukrainian forces will continue fighting until ordered to stop.
"If we hadn't done this, the front line would be much bigger," and many more Ukrainians would have died, Palamar told AP. "The front line would be in another area."