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KYIV: Ukraine has appealed to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) to help evacuate fighters holed up in the vast Azovstal steel works in Mariupol that is surrounded by Russian forces.

Ukraine’s Ministry for the Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories posted details on its website on Friday of a letter to the medical charity in which Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk expressed concern about “deplorable conditions” at the plant.

It quoted Vereshchuk as saying the MSF charter provided assistance to people in need or victims of armed conflict.

“Based on the principles that guide MSF, the Ministry for the Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine is asking for a mission to evacuate the defenders of Mariupol, who are now in the Azovstal metallurgical plant,” the ministry wrote on its website.

It said she had asked MSF to “assess their physical and mental condition, collect evidence of the conditions they are in, and provide medical assistance to Ukrainians whose human rights have been violated by the Russian Federation.”

Pentagon denies helping Ukraine ‘target’ Russian generals

Russia denies targeting civilians and has dismissed Ukrainian and international allegations of war crimes by its forces in Ukraine. Moscow has urged the fighters in the sprawling steel works to surrender.

Russian forces have occupied Mariupol, leaving the city’s last defenders - and scores of civilians - holed up in the Azovstal plant.

The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have helped evacuate some of the civilians and Ukraine said a new attempt was under way to evacuate the civilians.

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