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‘All women, children and elderly evacuated from Mariupol steel mill’

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he Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine has revealed that all women, children and elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel mill.

“This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over,” Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging service.

Ukraine announced on Friday an evacuation plan from Azovstal and other parts of Mariupol for Saturday.

Earlier, Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk region said that 50 civilians had been evacuated from the steel plant.

The conditions in the mill complex which has been bombarded by Russian forces for weeks was described as a “hellscape”.

Ukrainian forces remain holed up in Azvostal with many reported to be wounded. The huge plant is the last area in Mariupol that is under Ukrainian control.

The Soviet-era steel mill has emerged as a symbol of resistance to the wider Russian effort to capture swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian forces backed by tanks and artillery have repeatedly tried to storm the strategic port city on the Azov Sea.

Soldiers and civilians have been living in underground bunkers built during the soviet era as nuclear bunkers. The evacuation comes after weeks of negotiation between Russia and Ukraine, with in International Red Cross and UN working tirelessly to create humanitarian corridors to allow civilians safe passage.

The city’s mayor estimated earlier this week that 200 civilians were trapped at the plant.

It was not clear after the deputy prime minister’s statement on Saturday if civilian men were still in the complex.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a late-night video address on Friday that Ukraine was also working on a diplomatic effort to save fighters barricaded inside the steel works. It was unclear how many fighters remained there.

The fighters have vowed not to surrender. Ukrainian officials fear Russian forces want to wipe them out by Monday, in time for Moscow’s commemorations of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.

President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol on April 21, ordered the plant sealed off and called for Ukrainian forces inside to disarm. But Russia later resumed its assault on the plant.

Asked about plans for Russia to mark Monday’s anniversary in parts of Ukraine it holds, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday “The time will come to mark Victory Day in Mariupol.”

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