STORY: Some in tears and some smiling, people got off the buses to have their documents checked by the police. Pets were seen accompanying their owners.
Olena Zamyslova, a firefighter from Mariupol, told reporters: "It was quite challenging for me, because I’ve got not only one dog but four. So we were supposed to sit in a basement. It was 1 a.m. and we were in the basement and the Russians started shelling us. Ukrainian soldiers visited us. They began to calm us down. They were helping in different ways."
Mariupol, once home to 400,000 people, has seen not only the most intense battle of the war but also its worst humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands of civilians cut off for nearly two months under Russian siege and bombardment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest battle of the war in Ukraine on Thursday, declaring the port of Mariupol "liberated" after nearly two months of siege although hundreds of defenders were still holed up inside a steel works.