Mariupol steel plant evacuees reach safety

STORY: After weeks of cowering in the ruins of a steel works in Russian-occupied Mariupol, buses carrying evacuees reached the safety of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday (May 3).

A U.N. spokesman said 101 people had been able to leave the bunkers underneath the Azovstal steelworks, which had become a refuge for both civilians and Ukrainian fighters as Moscow laid siege to Mariupol.

Many had not seen daylight in two months.

One evacuee, who gave her name as Alina, said she feared she would die in a basement and that no one would save them.

It was not immediately clear if all of the evacuees arriving in Zaporizhzhia were from Azovstal.

The evacuation comes a day after Russian forces resumed firing rockets at the besieged city’s encircled steelworks.

The attack followed a UN-brokered ceasefire around the steelworks to allow civilians to escape.

But Ukrainian officials say 200 civilians are still trapped in bunkers and tunnels under the complex.

Mariupol is a major target for Russia as is seeks to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea and connect Russian-controlled territory in the south and east.

Many have left the city.

But officials say 100,000 remain. Some, like 64-year-old Tatyana Bushlanova, say they have nowhere to go.

"You wake up in the morning and you cry. You cry in the evening. I don't know where to go at all.”

"Of course it's scary. It does not stop. I don't know how to stay here during winter. We don't have a roof, don't have windows. Everything is very complicated."

Moscow’s focus has shifted to the south and east of Ukraine after abandoning an assault on Kyiv at the end of March.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that it had struck a military airfield near Odesa, destroying weaponry supplied by the United States and its European allies.

It released a video showing missiles being fired, which could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

They also said they had struck various military targets across Ukraine, including command centers and an anti-aircraft missile system.

Russia calls its actions a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists.

Ukraine and its western allies call that a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.

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