Russia Ukraine conflict

Convoy en route in bid to evacuate Azovstal civilians: UN

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A new UN convoy was Thursday heading to the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, which has seen heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, to try to evacuate civilians, its humanitarian chief said.

“Today as we speak, a convoy is proceeding to get to Azovstal by tomorrow morning hopefully to receive those civilians remaining in that bleak hell... and take them back to safety,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told a Ukraine donors’ conference in Warsaw.

The convoy was a fresh effort after the United Nations and Red Cross said Tuesday 101 civilians were evacuated from the tunnels of the Azovstal plant in the strategic southern port city.

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That marked the first completed civilian evacuation from the giant factory, where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have for weeks been trapped, as Russian forces besiege and pummel the city.

The evacuees were brought to the central city of Zaporizhzhia, which is under Ukrainian control.

The joint UN and Red Cross operation - agreed after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Moscow and Kyiv - lasted five days.

“And we’re now trying to do it for more, but it’s a sobering reminder of the difficulties... how difficult it is even to achieve these results,” Griffiths said Thursday.

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