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Dozens of Ukrainian civilians evacuated from Mariupol

Dozens of Ukrainian civilians evacuated from Mariupol
Ukrainian activists, whose relatives are in Mariupol, react during a rally on the Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Activists gathered to call on world leaders to help organize a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians and soldiers from the besieged city. Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE

May 1 (UPI) -- Dozens of civilians were evacuated from near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, Russian state media reported Sunday and later confirmed by Ukrainian officials.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in statements to state-run media TASS and RAI Novosti that at least 40 civilians, including 14 women and eight children, were evacuated from residential buildings near the besieged steel plant on Sunday.

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Russian state media reported that two previous groups with 46 civilians had been evacuated on Saturday. The evacuees have reportedly been taken to the village of Bezimenne in the Russian-backed Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in a tweet that the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal has started and that 100 people have already headed toward a control area where they will be met by Ukrainian officials.

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"Tomorrow we'll meet them in Zaporizhzhia. Grateful to our team! Now they, together with United Nations, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant," Zelensky said.

The Mariupol City Council also confirmed that an evacuation effort was in progress in a message on Telegram and told people to gather near a former shopping center."If you have relatives or acquaintances in Mariupol, try to contact them in all ways," the officials wrote.

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"Call, write and say that it is possible to go to Zaporizhzhia, where it is safe."

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Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said in a video message from the steel plant on Sunday that the evacuations come from the introduction of a ceasefire that had been brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Palamar said that the civilians were taken an "agreed meeting point" and hoped they are evacuated to Zaporizhzhia -- the agreed destination.

Some 100,000 people are still in Mariupol, which is a quarter of the population before the Russia-Ukraine war broke out Feb. 24. Ukrainian officials have said that residents of the city have suffered from "intolerable" and "unsanitary" conditions.

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