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KYIV/BEZIMENNE — Round 100 Ukrainian civilians had been evacuated from the ruined Azovstal steelworks within the metropolis of Mariupol on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mentioned, after the United Nations confirmed a “protected passage operation” was in progress there.

The strategic port metropolis on the Azov Sea has endured probably the most harmful siege of the battle with Russia – now in its third month – with Pope Francis, in an implicit criticism of Moscow, telling hundreds of individuals in St Peter’s Sq. on Sunday it had been “barbarously bombarded.”

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“For the primary time, we had two days of a ceasefire on this territory, and we managed to take out greater than 100 civilians – girls, kids,” Zelenskiy mentioned in a nightly video handle.

The primary evacuees would arrive within the Ukrainian-controlled metropolis of Zaporizhzhia on Monday morning, he mentioned, including that he hoped circumstances would proceed that allowed for extra individuals to be evacuated.

With combating stretching alongside a broad entrance in southern and japanese Ukraine, U.S. Home of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged continued U.S. help for Ukraine “till victory is received” after she met Zelenskiy in an unannounced go to to Kyiv.

Russia’s army has turned its focus to Ukraine’s south and east after failing to seize Kyiv within the early weeks of a battle that has flattened cities, killed hundreds of civilians and compelled greater than 5 million to flee the nation.

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In Mariupol, Moscow declared victory on April 21 whilst lots of of holdout Ukrainian troops and civilians took shelter within the Azovstal steelworks, an unlimited Soviet-era complicated with a community of bunkers and tunnels, the place they’ve been trapped with little meals, water or medication.

Negotiations to evacuate the civilians had repeatedly damaged down in current weeks, with Russia and Ukraine blaming one another.

However on Sunday, greater than 50 civilians arrived at a short lived lodging heart after escaping from Mariupol, a Reuters photographer mentioned.

The civilians arrived on buses in a convoy with U.N. and Russian army automobiles on the Russian-held village of Bezimenne, round 30 km (18 miles) east of Mariupol, the place a row of sunshine blue tents had been arrange.

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One of many evacuees, Natalia Usmanova, 37, mentioned she had been so terrified as Russian bombs rained down on the plant sprinkling her with concrete mud that she felt her coronary heart would cease.

“When the bunker began to shake, I used to be hysterical. My husband can vouch for that. I used to be so anxious the bunker would collapse,” she advised Reuters in Bezimenne.

A spokesperson for the U.N. Workplace for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs mentioned a “protected passage operation” had began on Saturday and was being coordinated with the Worldwide Committee of the Purple Cross, Russia and Ukraine.

He mentioned no additional particulars could possibly be launched in order to not jeopardize the protection of evacuees and the convoy.

Denys Shleha, commander of Ukraine’s twelfth Nationwide guard brigade, talking to tv on Sunday from the Azovstal plant, mentioned a number of hundred civilians remained in bunkers there, together with about 20 kids, and that one or two further evacuation efforts of comparable scale could be wanted.

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Russia’s protection ministry mentioned 80 civilians had been evacuated from the plant.

A plan to evacuate civilians from areas of the devastated metropolis exterior the steelworks had been postponed to Monday morning, Mariupol’s metropolis council mentioned.

U.S. ‘STANDS WITH UKRAINE’

Footage posted by Zelenskiy on Twitter on Sunday confirmed him, flanked by an armed escort and wearing army fatigues, greeting a U.S. congressional delegation led by Pelosi exterior his presidential workplace the day before today.

“We stand with Ukraine till victory is received. And we stand with our NATO allies in supporting Ukraine,” Pelosi, the best rating U.S. official to go to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, mentioned on Sunday at a press briefing in Poland.

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Zelenskiy praised as substantive 4 hours of talks with Pelosi targeted on U.S. weapons deliveries, including he was grateful to all of Ukraine’s companions who go to Kyiv at such a troublesome time.

U.S. Senate Democratic chief Chuck Schumer mentioned in New York he would add provisions to a $33 billion Ukraine assist package deal to permit the USA to grab Russian oligarchs’ belongings and ship cash from their sale on to Kyiv.

President Joe Biden requested Congress to approve the help package deal on Thursday in what would mark a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for Ukraine.

Biden spoke with Pelosi on Sunday about her journey, a White Home official mentioned with out elaborating.

Moscow calls its actions a “particular army operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked battle of aggression.

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Russia’s International Minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned Moscow was not demanding that Zelenskiy “give himself up” as a situation for peace.

“We’re demanding that he challenge an order to launch civilians and cease resistance. Our purpose doesn’t embody regime change in Ukraine,” Lavrov mentioned in a media interview revealed on his ministry’s web site.

EASTERN PUSH

Within the east, Moscow is pushing for full management of the Donbas area, the place Russian-backed separatists already managed elements of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces earlier than the invasion.

On Sunday, Kharkiv area governor Oleh Synehubov warned residents within the north and east of town of Kharkiv to stay of their shelters as a result of heavy Russian shelling. Reuters couldn’t instantly confirm studies of shelling within the space.

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Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk area, in a social media publish, urged individuals to evacuate whereas it was nonetheless potential.

Ukraine’s army mentioned Russian forces had been combating to push north from Kherson to the cities of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih, and Zelenskiy mentioned Russian troops continued to launch strikes on residential areas and had destroyed grain storage depots.

“It will solely construct up the poisonous angle to the Russian state and improve the numbers of these working to isolate Russia,” Zelenskiy mentioned.

(Reporting by Hamuda Hassan and Jorge Silva in Dobropillia, Ukraine, and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Further reporting by Reuters journalists; Writing by Clarence Fernandez, Frances Kerry, Alex Richardson and Michael Martina; Modifying by David Goodman, Alexandra Hudson, Angus MacSwan, Daniel Wallis and Diane Craft)

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