STORY: "Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis. Thousands of civilians need life-saving assistance. Many are elderly, in need of medical care or have limited mobility," Guterres told reporters after the talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. "They need an escape route out of the apocalypse."
Referring to the possibility of a United Nations and ICRC-coordinated humanitarian corridor for the hundreds of civilians believed to still be in Azovstal, Guterres said: "As we speak, there are intense discussions to move forward on this proposal to make it a reality."
The meeting with Zelenskiy followed talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday where the latter agreed "in principle" to U.N. and International Committee for the Red Cross involvement in evacuating the Azovstal plant.
On April 21, nearly two months into the siege of the strategic port city, Russia declared victory in Mariupol although remaining Ukrainian forces were holding out in a vast underground complex below Azovstal, where civilians were also sheltering.
The Mariupol city council has said about 100,000 residents across the city are "in mortal danger" because of Russian shelling and unsanitary conditions, and described a "catastrophic" shortage of drinking water and food.