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KYIV: At least 35,000 civilians were evacuated from besieged Ukrainian cities on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

In a video address late Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said three humanitarian corridors had allowed residents to leave the cities of Sumy, Enerhodar and areas around Kyiv.

He said he hoped the evacuations would continue on Thursday with three more routes set to open out of the cities of Mariupol, Volnovakha in the southeast and Izium in eastern Ukraine.

The evacuations came after Moscow and Kyiv agreed on Wednesday to open more corridors, offering a glimmer of hope for terrified civilians trapped in bombarded cities.

More than 5,000 people were evacuated a day earlier from Sumy, a city of 250,000 that lies close to the Russian border and has been the scene of heavy fighting.

But attempted evacuations from the port town of Mariupol, which has been besieged by Russia for days, have failed on several occasions, with both Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other.

On Wednesday, a Russian strike destroyed a children’s hospital in the city, triggering renewed global outrage two weeks into Moscow’s invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbour.

Mariupol’s mayor said more than 1,200 civilians have been killed in the siege, which has lasted more than a week.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has estimated the total number of refugees at 2.1 to 2.2 million.

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