50 civilians evacuated from Azovstal plant in Mariupol

STORY: Reuters journalists saw at least two coaches arrive at a camp in the Russian-controlled town of Bezimenne, and evacuees being received by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, which have been helping to organise the evacuations from the besieged Azovstal steel complex.

The tented reception camp was flying the black-blue-red flag of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, whose independence is recognised only by Russia.

Ukrainian officials accused Russia of violating a ceasefire aimed at evacuating the scores of civilians still trapped underground in the vast industrial plant, after efforts to rescue them the previous day were thwarted by fighting.

Moscow, which calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation", confirmed on Friday the number of evacuees and said: "The humanitarian operation at Azovstal will continue on May 7."

Azovstal's remaining uninjured defenders have rejected President Vladimir Putin's suggestion that they surrender, saying they will not leave unless they are evacuated with their weapons.

Mariupol has endured the most destructive bombardment of the 10-week-old war, and the sprawling Soviet-era Azovstal plant is the last part of the strategic port city still in the hands of Ukrainian fighters.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Russia was trying to finish off forces inside the plant to seize it by Monday as a gift for President Vladimir Putin in time for the World War Two Victory Day holiday.

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