KYIV: Ukraine will make a new attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, the heavily destroyed city largely controlled by Russian forces, at noon on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
“Today we will again try to evacuate women, children and the elderly,” Vereshchuk said on Telegram, calling for people to gather on the motorway close to the Port City shopping centre in the city.
“If everything happens as planned, we will start the evacuation around noon.”
Ukraine has had to cancel evacuation attempts out of Mariupol in recent days, because of a lack of agreement from the Russian side.
On Friday evening, Vereshchuk vowed Ukraine will continue to try to get civilians out of the shattered city.
“I understand how difficult it is for you. Corridors have been broken so many times. But you and I should try as many times as necessary until it works,” she said on Telegram.
There has been hope for a weekend truce between Ukraine and Russia, as both countries celebrate Orthodox Easter.
Russia has declared it de-facto controls Mariupol, aside for the giant Azovstal steel plant where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and allegedly some civilians remain holed up.
Ukraine has repeatedly called for a ceasefire to allow the civilians out of the heavily destroyed port.
The Azov battalion, a nationalist Ukrainian regiment that has led the defence of the city, posted a video this week showing civilians – including many young children – allegedly hiding on the territory of the Azovstal plant.
One of the women who appeared in the footage says they have been in the factory for two months.
It was not possible to verify the video.
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded this week that the trapped Ukrainian defenders be sealed into their last stand.
EU chief Charles Michel said that he had urged the Russian leader to allow safe passage from Mariupol in a Friday phone call.