Humanitarian workers affiliated with the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) will be allowed to intervene in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s Mariupol. Russian President agreed to the involvement “in principle”, a United Nations spokesperson said.
The announcement comes after United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres met Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the conflict in Ukraine. The two leaders also discussed the Azovstal steel plant.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the United Nations, said in a statement, “Follow-on discussions will be had with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Russian Defence Ministry”, according to reports from Reuters.
Moscow declared victory in the port city of Mariupol nearly two months after its “special operation” in Ukraine commenced. The Azovstal steel plant was the only area not occupied by Russian forces, and Putin ordered his forces to surround the steel plant in such a way “that not even a fly comes through.”
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said that United Nations’ Guterres suggested a “Humanitarian Contact Group”, which would have representatives from three parties: UN, Russia and Ukraine.
The group will be tasked to find “opportunities for the opening of safe corridors, with local cessations of hostilities, and to guarantee that they are actually effective”, Lavrov said, according to reports from Reuters.
Conflicting claims have emerged from Mariupol in the last week. While Moscow says a humanitarian corridor would be opened for a safe exit of civilians, Kyiv said Russian forces were still attacking the area.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan also spoke up on the situation in Mariupol and sided with Moscow. He said Ukraine must be ready to “take responsibility” for those who have been stuck inside the steel plant for days.