Russia Ukraine conflict

Red Cross teams on way to Mariupol, but without aid

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is sending staff to the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and is hopeful that evacuations of thousands of civilians can begin on Friday, a spokesperson said at a media briefing.

The city has been encircled since the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24.

A previous attempt by the Red Cross to access it in early March failed because the route was found to be unsafe and conflict resumed.

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“We have permission to move today and we are en route to Mariupol,” ICRC spokesperson Ewan Watson said. “We are hopeful [the safe passage operation] will commence today.”

The Red Cross team of three cars carrying nine staff members aims to lead a convoy of about 54 Ukrainian buses and a number of private vehicles out of the city, where up to 170,000 people are without power and have limited food, according to the mayor.

Watson stressed that the operation had been approved by both sides but the body is still working out some key details such as the exact timing as well as the destination, which will be an undetermined location in Ukraine.

“Piecing together this safe passage convoy has been and remains extremely complex,” he said.

The Red Cross was not allowed to take humanitarian aid with the convoy, and it departed without the medical and other supplies it had pre-positioned in the city of Zaporizhzhia, he said.

“At the moment we do not have permission to bring in aid with us but that is something we will continue to make efforts to try to do over the coming days,” he added. He declined to give further details.

“The situation is horrendous and deteriorating. It is now a humanitarian imperative that people be allowed to leave and aid supplies be allowed in,” Watson said.

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