Civilians evacuated from Azovstal plant

Russia and Ukraine both play up compromise as peace talks set to resume By Reuters
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© Reuters. Civilians who left the area near Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol walk accompanied by UN staff and a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at a temporary accommodation centre during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the village of Bezimen

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BEZIMENNE, Ukraine (Reuters) -A group of 40 civilians was evacuated on Sunday from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel works in a convoy with vehicles bearing United Nations symbols, signalling a deal had been struck to ease the ordeal of the most destructive siege in the Ukraine conflict.

In one of the first major signs of an evacuation deal, a group of around 40 civilians arrived on Sunday at a temporary accommodation centre after leaving the area around the Azovstal plant, a Reuters photographer said.

Reuters photographs showed the civilians arriving in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk Region, around 30 km east of Mariupol, with Ukrainian number plates in a convoy with Russian forces and vehicles with United Nations symbols.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Thursday that intense discussions were under way to enable the evacuation of Azovstal.

A spokesman for the United Nations declined comment. An aide to the mayor of Mariupol declared a period of silence, pending official statements about the evacuations.

The siege of Mariupol, in which Russian forces battled Ukrainian fighters, has turned the port city into a wasteland with an unknown death toll and thousands trying to survive without water, sanitation or food.

The war-torn city is under Russian control but some fighters and civilians remain holed up in the Azovstal works – a vast Soviet-era plant founded under Josef Stalin and designed with a labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels to withstand a major attack.

Two groups of civilians left the residential area around the Azovstal works on Saturday, the Russian defence ministry said on Sunday.

A video released by Russia’s defence ministry on Sunday showed vehicles bearing United Nations and Red Cross symbols.

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