May 7 (UPI) — Ukraine‘s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday that “all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated” from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
“The president’s order has been carried out,” Vereshchuk said in a statement to Facebook. “This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been working with the United Nations to evacuate civilians from the plant, has not yet commented about the completion of the operation.
The evacuations from the Azovstal began in earnest last weekend with dozens of civilians leaving the steel plant to be taken to meet with Ukrainian officials in Zaporizhzhia. But many more were thought to be still trapped inside by earlier Saturday morning.
It was not immediately clear how many civilians were evacuated from the plant on Saturday. Soldiers and civilian men remain trapped inside the plant.
Alexander Khodakovsky, a commander of the Russian-backed separatist Vostok battalion, claimed Saturday in a post on his Telegram channel first spotted by NBC News that a group of Ukrainian fighters had surrendered while waving a white flag.
The Azov regiment, a Ukrainian force made up of volunteers that has been defending the area around the plant, noted in its own post to Telegram that the white flags were used as part of the evacuation efforts.
“White flags are used by both groups to implement the civilian evacuation plan,” according to the Azov regiment.
“This time as well, both groups used such flags to evacuate citizens from the territory of the Azovstal plant. We would like to note that this procedure is being held for the fourth time.”
The military aid package includes 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, three AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars, electronic jamming equipment and field equipment and spare parts.