Ukraine hopes to evacuate 6,000 women, children and elderly people from the besieged city of Mariupol on Wednesday if a preliminary agreement with Russia holds, the city’s mayor said.
Mayor Vadym Boichenko, who has left Mariupol, said 90 buses were waiting to head to the devastated southern port city. He cautioned that the agreement was still only a preliminary arrangement and that about 100,000 civilians remained there.
If the deal holds, it will be the first agreement reached on creating a safe corridor for civilians to flee Mariupol to other Ukrainian cities since March 5. That agreement, however, quickly collapsed, and many residents have been trapped there for weeks without power, running water and other supplies.
“We plan to send buses to Mariupol but for now it is only a preliminary agreement,” Boichenko said on national television.
He said tens of thousands of people had been killed in the city on the Sea of Azov which has been largely destroyed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The number could not be verified by Reuters.
Russia denies intentionally targeting civilians and there was no immediate word from Moscow on whether a humanitarian corridor would be established out of Mariupol.
“Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook, adding that people wishing to leave Mariupol should gather in the city at 2 p.m.
“Given the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor action,” she said.
With Post Wires