Ukraine commander orders international evacuation effort at Mariupol plant because situation is “critical”

The Russian Defense Ministry released a statement on Tuesday claiming that Russian forces had opened an evacuation corridor around the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, claims denied at the scene by a Ukrainian police official at the scene. .

“In light of the dire situation that occurred at the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol, and also guided by purely humane principles, from 2:00 p.m. (2 p.m. Moscow time) April 19, 2022. , the Russian Armed Forces opened a humanitarian corridor for the withdrawal of Ukrainian servicemen who voluntarily laid down their arms and fighters of the nationalist forces “, the statement read. For this purpose, a ‘ceasefire’ was introduced, all hostilities ceased, units of the Russian Armed Forces and troops of the Donetsk People’s Republic along the whole The Azovstal perimeter has been withdrawn to a safe distance. “

The statement also repeated calls for Ukrainian forces to surrender. “Realizing that the commanders of Ukrainian units may not receive such orders and orders from the Kyiv authorities, we encourage them to make their own decisions and lay down their arms,” ​​it said.

Myhailo Vershynin, Mariupol’s police chief, called the Russian conditions “unacceptable” that Ukrainian forces were keeping in the factory.

“No one will agree with them,” he said. “Exit, corridor, etc., they’ve announced this a thousand times.”

Vershynin said the Azovstal plant, where Ukrainian troops were stationed and civilians sheltered, was hit by “super powerful bombs. And this will continue.”

Videos of women and children, deliberately taking refuge in the basement of the Azovstal factory in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol, appeared on social media Monday evening. Vershynin said the Russians had allowed some civilians to leave, but others were reluctant to leave the city via evacuation routes leading into Russian-controlled territory.

“Those who stayed [Azovstal] shelter are people who absolutely do not want to go to DPR [the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic]they want to go to Ukraine,” Verhynin said.

“That’s why we ask: Organize a corridor, the safety of civilians must be guaranteed. The Russians believe it’s fake. It’s not fake. This is a real video shot. We couldn’t get to all the shelters due to the constant shelling. We filmed at a shelter that we could access. And there were hundreds of people. like that all over the territory. They [the Russians] is declaring humanitarian corridors, a ceasefire. They say, get out, surrender, get the civilians out of here. The common people who wanted to leave, have already left. Those who stay they will not come to the Russians. That’s why we asked for a humanitarian corridor for the Ukrainian side,” Verhynin said.

Russia announced the evacuation corridors will open on Wednesday: Later on Tuesday evening, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying it offered Ukrainian forces besieged in the besieged city of Mariupol a ceasefire that came into effect at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Moscow time (7 a.m. ET), claimed that Ukrainian forces had failed to take advantage of an earlier offer to withdraw and lay down their arms.

The Russian statement said that the Russian armed forces and the separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic would cease combat operations along the entire perimeter of the besieged Azovstal steel plant and withdraw to a safe distance. whole.

CNN’s Josh Pennington contributed reporting to this post.

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