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Red Cross convoy reaches Zaporizhzhia with refugees from southeast Ukraine

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A Red Cross convoy arrived in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday after failing to reach the besieged port city of Mariupol, an AFP journalist on the scene reported.

Accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), seven buses and at least 40 private cars arrived in the city, the journalist said.

The ICRC said in a social media post Wednesday that more than 500 evacuees in total were escorted to Zaporizhzhia in the operation, including people who had been in Mariupol.

On Monday, the Red Cross said that the team it had dispatched several days earlier to help evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol was being held by police in Russian-controlled territory.

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The organization said on Twitter Wednesday that it had attempted for five days to reach the city, which has been under sustained Russia bombardment since Moscow invaded in late February.

“But security conditions made it impossible,” it said.

“Thousands are still trapped in the city. They urgently need a safe passage out, and aid to come in,” it added.

Russian forces late last month struck a Red Cross facility in the city, home to half a million people before the war, where officials have warned of a humanitarian disaster.

Repeated attempts to evacuate residents have collapsed, though some have made the dangerous dash to freedom from the city alone.

The city’s mayor earlier this week estimated that some 90 percent of the city had been completely destroyed as a result of the war.

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