Russia agrees ‘in principle’ to evacuations from Mariupol steel plant

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Russia has agreed “in principle” to evacuating Ukrainian civilians and troops holding out in a Ukrainian steel mill in the port city of Mariupol following a meeting between U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The President agreed, in principle, to the involvement of the United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol”, Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for Guterres, said of Putin.

Over the weekend, Russian forces had attempted to storm the steel plant, which housed troops and civilians in Mariupol. Putin later ordered troops to ensure that no one escaped from the facility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously spoken of the devastation at the hands of Russian forces in the hard-hit port city, calling it “inhuman.”

“The situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible. Just inhuman,” Zelensky said earlier this month. “This is what the Russian Federation did. Deliberately did. And deliberately continues to destroy cities. Russia is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol.”

Following the meeting in Moscow, the secretary-general said of Mariupol, “civilians are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance and many of evacuation”

“The United Nations is ready to fully mobilize its human and logistical resources to help save lives in Mariupol,” he said.

Guterres, who also met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, indicated that the war in Ukraine was not near an end, amid fundamental differences over “what is happening in Ukraine.”

“I had a very frank discussion with the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and it is clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine,” Guterres said, noting that to Russians the attack is “a special military operation” but that the U.N. believes it is “a violation of its territorial integrity and against the Charter of the United Nations.”

The U.N. chief is also scheduled to visit Kyiv later this week, as Russia’s war on Ukraine rages in the east.

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