Monday, May 23, 2022

Evacuation buses departing from Russian-held Melitopol, according to Ukrainian officials

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday it is sending humanitarian aid from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol in the form of “three cars and nine staff members.”

Speaking at a virtual United Nations briefing on Ukraine, ICRC spokesperson Ewan Watson said the teams traveling from Zaporizhzhia are hoping to “assist with the safe passage operation” but added that “this effort has been and remained extremely complex,” with a full plan not “yet in place to ensure that this happens in a safe manner.”

“Today, we remain hopeful we are an action moving towards Mariupol. That is obviously a good thing, but it’s not yet clear that this will happen today,” Watson said.

“If and when it does happen, the ICRC his role as a neutral intermediary will be to lead the convoy out from many of Mariupol to another city in Ukraine. We’re unable to confirm which city at the moment as this is something the parties must agree to. The latest information we have is that there will be potentially 54 buses, and we can expect many other civilian vehicles,” Watson added.

Watson reiterated that the evacuation from Mariupol — expected to include thousands of people — can only take place if specific criteria are fulfilled.

“The details that we insist on cemented in place include the exact safe route, its exact start time passage, and its duration. We have to be certain that the ceasefire holds of course we have to be certain that this humanitarian convoy can safely move through military checkpoints,” Watson said.

Local residents walk past a destroyed apartment building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 31.
Local residents walk past a destroyed apartment building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 31. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Watson went on to address the horrors seen in this conflict in Ukraine, particularly in Mariupol, while stressing the importance that “people be allowed to leave and aid supplied allowed in.”

We are running out of adjectives to describe the horrors that residents in Mariupol have suffered. The situation is horrendous and deteriorating and it’s now a humanitarian imperative that people be allowed to leave and aid supplies be allowed in.”

“The people of Mariupol have suffered weeks of heavy fighting with dwindling water, food and medical supplies,” Watson added.

Some background: Residents in the southern port city face a worsening humanitarian situation amid Russian airstrikes, weeks of shelling by Russian forces, and stifled evacuation efforts.

Statistics released by Ukrainian officials on Sunday paint a grim picture of what has come from weeks of destruction in Mariupol.

Some 90% of residential buildings in the city were damaged, the data shows. Of those, 60% were hit directly and 40% were destroyed.

Seven of the city’s hospitals — 90% of its hospital capacity — were damaged, of which three were destroyed. Also damaged were three maternity hospitals (one destroyed), seven institutes of higher education (three destroyed), and 57 schools and 70 kindergartens, with 23 and 28 destroyed, respectively.

A number of factories were damaged and the city’s port sustained damage.

According to those official statistics, up to 140,000 people left the city before it was surrounded, and around 150,000 managed to leave during the blockade. Ukrainian officials claim 30,000 people from Mariupol were deported to Russia.

CNN’s Nathan Hodge and Julia Presniakova contributed reporting to this post.

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