x

Politics

First Civilians Leave Mariupol Steel Plant; Hundreds Remain

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — People fleeing besieged Mariupol described weeks of bombardments and deprivation as they arrived Monday in Ukrainian-held territory, where officials and relief workers anxiously awaited the first group of civilians freed from a steel plant that is the last redoubt of Ukrainian fighters in the devastated port city.

Video posted online Sunday by Ukrainian forces showed elderly women and mothers with small children climbing over a steep pile of rubble from the sprawling Azovstal steel plant and eventually boarding a bus.

More than 100 civilians from the plant were expected to arrive in Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of Mariupol, on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

The evacuation, if successful, would represent rare progress in easing the human cost of the almost 10-week war, which has caused particular suffering in Mariupol. Previous attempts to open safe corridors out of the Sea of Azov city and other places have broken down, with Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accusing Russian forces of shooting and shelling along agreed-upon evacuation routes.

“Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vitally needed green corridor has started working,” Zelenskyy said Sunday in a pre-recorded address published on his Telegram messaging channel.

In this image released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office on Sunday, May 1, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives for his meeting with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

At least some of the people evacuated from the plant were apparently taken to a village controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. The Russian military said Monday that some chose to stay in separatist areas, while dozens have left for Ukrainian-controlled territory. The information could not be independently verified.

In the past, Ukrainian officials have accused Moscow’s troops of forcibly relocating civilians from areas they have captured to Russia; Moscow has said the people wanted to go to Russia.

Zelenskyy told Greek state television that remaining civilians in the Mariupol steel factory were afraid to board buses because they believe they will be taken to Russia. He said he had been assured by the United Nations that they would be allowed to go to areas his government controls.

A child plays with the steering wheel of a car as his family waits to be processed upon their arrival from Mariupol at a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Monday, May 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Mariupol has come to symbolize the human misery inflicted by the war. A Russian siege has trapped civilians with little access to food, water and electricity, as Moscow’s forces pounded the city to rubble in the face of stiffer than expected Ukrainian resistance.

Ukraine’s defense also thwarted Moscow’s attempt to take Kyiv in the opening weeks of the war and Russia has now shifted its focus to the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014. Mariupol lies in the Donbas.

Russia says its military has struck dozens of military targets in the region in the past day alone. But Ukrainian and Western officials claim Moscow’s troops are using indiscriminate weapons that are taking a heavy toll on civilians and are making only slow progress.

While official evacuations have often faltered, many people have managed to flee Mariupol under their own steam in recent weeks. Others are unable to escape.

In this photo taken from video, civil evacuees sit in a bus in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Bezimenne, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (AP Photo)

“People without cars cannot leave. They’re desperate,” said Olena Gibert, who was among those arriving an a U.N.-backed reception center in Zaporizhzhia in dusty and often damaged private cars. “You need to go get them. People have nothing. We had nothing.”

She said many people still in Mariupol wish to escape the Russia-controlled city but can’t say so openly amid the atmosphere of constant pro-Russian propaganda.

Anastasiia Dembytska, who took advantage of the brief cease-fire around the evacuation of civilians from the steel plant to leave with her daughter, nephew and dog, told The Associated Press her family survived by cooking on a makeshift stove and drinking well water.

She said could see the steel plant from her window, when she dared to look out.

“We could see the rockets flying” and clouds of smoke over the plant, she said.

Irpin Territorial Defence and Ukrainian Army soldiers hold flowers to be placed on the graves of comrades fallen during the Russian occupation, at the cemetery of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Sunday, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

A defender of the plant said Russian forces resumed shelling the plant Sunday as soon as some civilians there were evacuated. It was unclear whether there would be further evacuation attempts.

Denys Shlega, commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard, said in a televised interview that several hundred civilians remain trapped alongside nearly 500 wounded soldiers and “numerous” dead bodies.

“Several dozen small children are still in the bunkers underneath the plant,” Shlega said.

Before the weekend evacuation, about 1,000 civilians were also believed to be in the the sprawling, Soviet-era steel plant, along with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters. As many as 100,000 people may still be in Mariupol overall.

In this photo taken from video, civil evacuees accompanied by Red Cross personnel walk in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Bezimenne, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, April 30, 2022. (AP Photo)

The city, which had a pre-war population of more than 400,000, is a key Russian target because its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up troops for fighting elsewhere in the Donbas.

A Ukrainian officer at the plant urged groups like the U.N. and the Red Cross to ensure the evacuation of wounded fighters, though he acknowledged that reaching some of the injured is difficult.

“There’s rubble. We have no special equipment. It’s hard for soldiers to pick up slabs weighing tons only with their arms,” Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, told the AP in an interview. “We hear voices of people who are still alive” inside shattered buildings.

The Azov Regiment originated as a far-right paramilitary unit and is now part of the Ukrainian military.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces struck dozens of military targets in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours, including concentrations of troops and weapons and an ammunition depot near Chervone in the Zaporizhzhia region, which lies west of the Donbas.

The mother of Oleksandr Mozheiko, 31, an Irpin Territorial Defense soldier killed by Russian army, cries at his grave at the cemetery of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Sunday, May 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The information could not be independently verified. The Ukrainian president’s office said at least three people were killed and another seven, including a child, were wounded in the Donbas in the last 24 hours. The regional administration in Zaporizhzhia said that at least two people died and another four were wounded in Russian shelling of the town of Orikhiv.

A full picture of battle unfolding in eastern Ukraine is hard to capture. The fighting makes it dangerous for reporters to move around, and both sides have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

Ukraine’s military claimed Monday to have destroyed two small Russian patrol boats in the Black Sea. Drone footage posted online showed what the Ukrainians described as two Russian Raptor boats exploding after being struck by missiles.

The AP could not immediately independently confirm the strikes.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance has flowed into Ukraine during the war, but Russia’s vast armories mean Ukraine still needs massive support. Zelenskyy has appealed to the West for more weapons, and tougher economic sanctions on Russia.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other U.S. lawmakers visited Zelenskyy on Saturday to show American support. On Monday, the delegation met with Polish President Andrzej Duda and lawmakers in Warsaw to express gratitude to the country for its support of Ukraine.

European Union energy ministers were meeting Monday to discuss a new set of sanctions, which could include restrictions on Russian oil — though Russia-dependent members of the 27-nation bloc including Hungary and Slovakia are wary of taking tough action.

RELATED

USA

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company was convicted of tax fraud on Tuesday in a case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney, a significant repudiation of financial practices at the former president’s business.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Warnock or Walker? Georgia Runoff to Settle Last Senate Seat

ATLANTA — Georgia voters on Tuesday are set to decide the final Senate contest in the country, choosing between Democratic Sen.

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company was convicted of tax fraud on Tuesday in a case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney, a significant repudiation of financial practices at the former president’s business.

With Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, the superstar striker’s replacement scored a hat trick to lead Portugal over Switzerland 6-1 and into the World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Morocco became the first Arab nation and only the fourth African nation to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals, beating Spain 3-0 in a penalty shootout on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is still actively searching for ways to safeguard abortion access for millions of women, even as it bumps up against a complex web of strict new state laws enacted in the months after the Supreme Court stripped the constitutional right.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.