Ukraine said 50 civilians were evacuated from a bombed-out steelworks in the city of Mariupol on Friday, accusing Russia of violating a truce intended to allow dozens more still trapped beneath the plant to depart after weeks under siege, APA reports.
Mariupol has endured the most destructive bombardment of the 10-week-old war, and the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal plant is the last part of the city - a strategic southern port on the Azov Sea - still in the hands of Ukrainian fighters.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a late-night video address that Ukraine was working on a diplomatic effort to save defenders barricaded inside the steelworks. "Influential intermediaries are involved, influential states," he said, but provided no further details.
U.N.-brokered evacuations began last weekend of some of the hundreds of civilians who had taken shelter in a network of tunnels and bunkers beneath the plant. But they were halted during the week by renewed fighting.
On Friday afternoon, 50 women, children and elderly people were evacuated from the plant, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, adding that the operation would continue on Saturday. The Russian side constantly violated a local ceasefire, she said, making the evacuation very slow.
Russia confirmed the number of evacuees and said: "The humanitarian operation at Azovstal will continue on May 7."