Ukraine says all women and children now evacuated from Mariupol steel mill

Earlier on Saturday, Russia’s Interfax news agency cited Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk region as saying that 50 more people had been evacuated from the besieged steelworks.

However, by 1600 GMT, Reuters journalists had not seen any sign of their arrival at a reception centre in separatist-controlled territory near Mariupol.

The separatists said a total of 176 civilians had now been evacuated from the plant.

Evacuations of civilians from the Azovstal plant – brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – began last weekend. But they were halted during the week by renewed fighting.

The city’s mayor estimated earlier this week that 200 civilians were trapped at the plant.

It was not clear after the deputy prime minister’s statement on Saturday if civilian men were still in the complex.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a late-night video address on Friday that Ukraine was also working on a diplomatic effort to save fighters barricaded inside the steel works. It was unclear how many fighters remained there.

The fighters have vowed not to surrender. Ukrainian officials fear Russian forces want to wipe them out by Monday, in time for Moscow’s commemorations of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.

President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol on Apr 21, ordered the plant sealed off and called for Ukrainian forces inside to disarm. But Russia later resumed its assault on the plant.

Asked about plans for Russia to mark Monday’s anniversary in parts of Ukraine it holds, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday “The time will come to mark Victory Day in Mariupol.”