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 holdout in the Black Sea port city that has endured a Russian blockade throughout the conflict that began on February 24.
The UN has not said how many civilians it is transporting and it was not immediately clear why the sides gave different numbers.
“The evacuation of civilians from Azovstal has started,” Zelensky said on Twitter, adding that they were due to reach Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia on Monday.
The Russian Defense Ministry earlier confirmed that civilians were leaving, and released a video showing cars and buses traveling 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 appeal to the city’s humanitarian corridors, saying it had been “barbarously bombed and destroyed.”
“Don’t be intimidated by the thugs,” US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a news conference in Rzeszow, southern Poland, on Sunday after returning from Ukraine.
Pelosi met with Zelensky on Saturday, becoming the most important American figure she has visited since the war began.
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 –
Russia’s Defense Ministry also said on Sunday it used high-precision Onyx missiles to attack a hangar at a military airfield near the Black Sea port city of Odessa that houses weapons from the United States and European countries and destroyed the clue.
Russia has moved to consolidate its control over areas it controls and from Sunday introduced the Russian ruble into the Kherson region, 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 front line in the east, Russian troops have advanced slowly but steadily in some areas, aided by massive use of artillery, but Ukrainian forces have also recaptured some territory in recent days, particularly around the city. from Kharkiv.
“It was two months of terrible fear. Nothing more, terrible and relentless fear,” Natalia, a 28-year-old evacuee from Ruska Lozova, told AFP after arriving in Kharkiv.
“Everyone understands that we must protect 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 Sviatogirsk.