Ukraine's President seeks evacuations from Mariupol
By Stefan J. Bos
Dozens of civilians, mainly women, carefully walked towards an awaiting bus, accompanied by the Red Cross and the United Nations.
They were among the first to leave Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steelworks overnight after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered it to be sealed off so “not even a fly could escape.”
It was not immediately known whether they reached the agreed safety point in Zaporizhzhia, which Ukraine controls.
The United Nations said Sunday it wanted to get more civilians out of the bombed-out ruins of Mariupol. As many as 100,000 people are believed to still be in the blockaded city, including several thousands of fighters and civilians beneath the sprawling Soviet-era steel plant.
The evacuations came as U.S. House Speaker Pelosi sat down with Ukrainian President Zelensky in Kyiv, the capital. “We are visiting you to say: ‘thank you for your fight for freedom.’ That we are on a frontier of freedom, and your fight is a fight for everyone,” Pelosi told Zelensky on Saturday evening local time. “So our commitment is to be there for you until the fight is done,” she added. Zelensky awarded Pelosi the Order of Princess Olga, a Ukrainian civil honor.
ATTACKS ON KYIV
Pelosi, who is second in line to succeed the president, came days after Russia launched rockets at the capital during a visit by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
She said talks with Ukraine’s leader focused on security and humanitarian assistance as well as economic aid and eventually rebuilding when victory is won.
President Zelensky thanked the United States for providing military, humanitarian, and political support amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. He added that “this support shows that the United States is a leader in strong support for Ukraine during the war against the aggression of the Russian Federation.”
However, despite international support, Ukraine’s president has also expressed that the world seems incapable of preventing bloodshed, such as in Mariupol.
The port city on the Sea of Azov has been reduced to a wasteland littered with bodies by more than two months of siege and shelling that Ukraine claims killed tens of thousands of people.
It is a significant strategic prize for Russia as it gives it control over an entire coastline. The Russian military will have a route linking the Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014 with mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine held by separatists.