The evacuation of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, scarred by the war, is finally safe and the inhabitants are invited to flee to Zaporozhye, 220 km to the west, the authorities announced on Sunday.
“It’s official. Today it is possible to evacuate the civilian population from Mariupol,” the city council said in a statement. “If you have relatives or friends in Mariupol, try to contact them by all means. Call, write and say that it is possible to get to Zaporozhye, where it is safe.
“We’re praying for everything to work out.”
Dozens of civilians, including women and children, were evacuated over the weekend from inside and around the Aovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Russian media Tass reported on Sunday. UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the evacuation of the factory area involved the International Committee of the Red Cross in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials. Up to 2,000 Ukrainian fighters and around 1,000 civilians remain in and around the factory, the city’s last major resistance.
It is unclear how many civilians remain in Mariupol, trapped with little food, water or utilities. International estimates put the number at 100,000; Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Sunday the number was much higher. He also claimed that 20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants were deported by Russian troops to Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory or to Russia.
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►Undeterred by air raid sirens and warnings to shelter at home, residents of the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia visited cemeteries on Sunday, when Ukrainians observed the day Orthodox Christian of the dead.
►In the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, around 20 elderly adults and children holding bags with their dogs and cats boarded a minibus on Saturday in the town of Lyman, where at least half of the population fled the Russian bombardments.
►The Ukrainian national grid operator claims to have restored a “reliable” power supply in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, around the site of the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster.
►Actress Angelina Jolie paid a surprise visit to displaced people in Lviv, Ukraine on Saturday, the Lviv regional governor announced on Telegram. Angelina Jolie has been the United Nations Special Envoy for Refugees since 2011.
►The bodies of three civilians found in another mass grave in Bucha near kyiv show they were tortured, regional police chief Andriy Nebytov said on Saturday.
Pelosi meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a congressional delegation that met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv as Ukraine continued to come under bombardment by Russian military forces on its southern coast and in the east of the country.
Pelosi, second in line to succeed the president, provided the latest US show of support for beleaguered Ukraine. She is the oldest US lawmaker to visit the country since Russia launched the war more than two months ago.
The visit came as women and children were evacuated from a steelworks in Mariupol and a Russian rocket attack destroyed an airport runway in Odessa, a Black Sea port on the southern border of the ‘Ukraine.
Pelosi posted a video to her Twitter account on Sunday that showed her side-by-side with Zelenskyy, members of Congress — including Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Jason Crow, D-Colo., Barbara Lee, D-California; Gregory Meeks, D-New York and Bill Keating, D-Mass. – and other Ukrainian officials.
“We are here to tell you that we are with you until the end of the fight,” Pelosi said in the video.
Zelenskyy thanked Pelosi for her support, saying “we will win together.”
Pelosi replied, “We are here until victory is won.”
Ukrainian ambassador welcomes Pelosi’s visit
Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit symbolized American support for her beleaguered country at a time when the US$33 billion aid package President Joe Biden is waiting in Congress. The visit came less than a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
“I think this is yet another sign of the very, very strong support that Ukraine has here in the United States,” Markarova Markarova told “ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “We feel and know that Americans are our brothers and sisters in this fight for freedom, for democracy.”
After 67 days of resisting the Russian invasion, Markarova said the world has witnessed war crimes of rape, torture and the siege of Mariupol. She said Russian behavior has not changed, although it has not achieved its goals since its 2014 invasion or the last attack which began on February 24.
“We don’t see the change in their behavior yet,” she said. “They are trying to scare Ukraine. They try to scare the world. But the fact and the truth is that Ukrainians are not afraid and our president and all Ukrainians bravely defend our country. The world is not afraid.”
Schiff warns ‘horrendous toll’ of Putin’s invasion is growing
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said Sunday a three-hour discussion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy went over the military, economic and humanitarian assistance Ukraine needs.
“The horrific toll of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression mounts: missile strikes continue against major population centers, refugees flee for their lives, while bodies are piled up in mass graves,” Schiff said in a statement. “Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed or injured, and the whole world is feeling the repercussions of a global food shortage and soaring energy prices – all because of Putin’s bloodlust.”
Food shortages in the Middle East and Africa, a “catastrophic effect” of the invasion
Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said a broader concern about the war in Ukraine was food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, where countries depend on Ukraine for 80 90% of their wheat and cereals. Global food prices are up 34% from a year ago, she said on ‘ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos’.
“It’s just another catastrophic effect of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Power said.
She said the horrors of war are visible in the displacement of millions of refugees and the starvation of people during the siege of Mariupol.
“The courage is breathtaking and has inspired the world,” Power said. “These are real horrors being perpetrated right now.”
Ukrainian women trained in demining
A group of Ukrainian women learn to identify and defuse explosives, a need brought on by Russian forces who leave behind booby traps on the streets of Ukrainian cities. While it’s impossible to gauge just how littered Ukraine is currently with mines and unexploded ordnance, the aftermath of other conflicts suggests the problem will be enormous.
“In many parts of the world, explosive remnants of war continue to kill and maim thousands of civilians each year during and long after the end of active hostilities. The majority of victims are children,” the International Committee of the Red Cross told a UN conference in December.
Meanwhile, just outside Lviv on Saturday, Territorial Defense Force volunteers were learning first aid and battlefield techniques, The New York Times reported.
Contribute: The Associated Press