With evacuations underway in Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that diplomatic efforts are in full swing to save the remaining defenders trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant.
The fighters inside the devastated plant have vowed not to give in to Russia’s attacks. However, Ukraine’s officials remain fearful of a potential wipeout by Russian forces on Monday, the day Moscow celebrates Victory Day in all its raging glory.
Ukraine said that 50 civilians were among the evacuees on Friday, while accusing Russia of breaching a truce that was meant to ensure the evacuation of dozens of others still holed up underground.
Addressing the nation at night, Zelensky said that Ukraine was working on a diplomatic effort to evacuate the fighters inside the steel plant.
“Influential intermediaries are involved, influential states,” he said without providing much details, according to Reuters. The number of Ukraine’s defenders inside the steelworks plant remains uncertain for now.
On May 6, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that 50 women, children, and elderly people were evacuated during a rather slow operation caused by Russia’s constant violation of a local ceasefire.
Confirming the figure of evacuees, Russia said: “The humanitarian operation at Azovstal will continue on May 7.”
The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has experienced Russia’s most belligerent attacks since the war began on February 24. Despite constant bombardments, the Azovstal steel plant continues to stand tall, protecting fighters who refuse to surrender. The plant is the last part of the city that remains under Ukraine’s control.
With Russia approaching its Victory Day, an occasion that commemorates the country’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War Two, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “The time will come to mark Victory Day in Mariupol.”