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Ukraine says Russia will not allow Mariupol steel plant evacuations and will try to force surrender

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A Ukrainian official said on Friday that Russia was refusing to allow evacuations from a Mariupol steel plant by “pretending” there was no difference between military surrender and civilian evacuations.

“The Russians refuse to open a corridor for civilians, cynically claiming that they do not understand the difference between a corridor for the military to surrender and a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna said. Vereschuk. “But they understand everything.

“It’s just that they’re trying to put extra pressure on our military,” she added.

UKRAINE ACCUSES RUSSIA OF LEAVING UP TO 9,000 KILLED IN MARIUPOL IN MASS GRAVES

Smoke rises above the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image obtained from recent drone video posted on social media.
(MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.)

Vereschuk has been trying for weeks to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the partially besieged port city, but his attempts have been repeatedly thwarted by Russian troops.

After several consecutive days of negotiations with Russian forces to open humanitarian corridors, the deputy prime minister said no evacuations would take place on Friday and urged residents of Mariupol to “be patient” and “please be patient”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday claimed victory over the war-torn city, despite thousands of resistance forces remaining in the city.

Around 100,000 residents are believed to still be in Mariupol and more than 1,000 civilians and soldiers are believed to have gone to the tunnels under the steelworks, a site that has become a stronghold of the resistance.

In an attempt to root out those hiding in the tunnels, Putin advised his troops to block the tunnels to deny access to resupplies, saying those who voluntarily lay down their arms will be “guaranteed[d] a dignified life and treatment.”

Smoke rises above a plant at the Mariupol Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant on Wednesday.
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko)

MARIUPOL BATTLE RAGES WITH THOUSANDS INJURED, UKRAINE OFFICIAL CALLS IT ‘KEY MOMENT’ IN WAR

“The Russians are afraid to storm Azovstal, but at the same time they knowingly and cynically block the release of civilians from Azovstal, thereby trying to exert additional pressure on our military,” the Deputy Prime Minister said. .

Ukrainian soldiers reportedly refused to surrender.

“There is a corridor for the military to surrender. The Russians provided one, but we don’t need it because our military doesn’t want to surrender,” Vereschuk said. “There is also a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians out of the combat zone.

A boy rides a scooter near a destroyed building in Mariupol, Ukraine on Thursday.

A boy rides a scooter near a destroyed building in Mariupol, Ukraine on Thursday.
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko)

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“We need such [a] Azovstal corridor to evacuate women, children and the elderly,” she added.

Vereschuk pleaded with the international community to step in and help facilitate safe evacuations for civilians stuck in the fighting.

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