Updated May 8, 2022 - World

Ukraine: All women, children and elderly evacuated from Mariupol steel plant

Evacuations from the Azovstal plant on May 6.

Evacuations from the Azovstal plant on May 6. Photo: Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

All women, children and elderly people have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukraine's government said Saturday.

Driving the news: Hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were sheltering at the decimated plant this week. They were evacuated through humanitarian corridors facilitated by the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross during a three-day daytime ceasefire.

  • Over the past several weeks, Russian forces launched air and ground attacks on the massive plant, which remains Ukraine's final military foothold in the city.

What they're saying: "The President's order has been carried out: All women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal," Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post.

  • "This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed," she added.
  • Vereshchuk did not say how many civilians in total were evacuated. Ukrainian officials previously said roughly 1,000 civilians were sheltering in the plant.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Saturday night address that "more than 300 people were saved" during the "first phase" of the civilian rescue mission, according to a transcript posted to the presidential website.

  • "We are now preparing the second stage of the evacuation mission — the wounded and medics ... we are also working to evacuate our military," he added, noting this would be "extremely difficult."
  • On Sunday, Ukrainian officials were preparing to work on humanitarian corridors "for all residents of Mariupol and surrounding settlements," according to Zelensky.

The big picture: Ukrainian forces in the plant had repeatedly refused Russia's demands to lay down their arms and urged a third-party country to evacuate them to neutral territory.

  • Fully capturing Mariupol would allow Russia to reposition soldiers for its ongoing assault on Ukraine's Donbas region. U.S. officials say that effort has, so far, been stalled.

What to watch: It wasn't immediately clear how many Ukrainian civilians had been killed during the Russian military's assault of Mariupol due to ongoing fighting.

  • Satellite images recently published by Maxar and Planet Labs show at least three mass grave sites dug in villages outside of Mariupol.
  • The United Nations Human Rights Council estimates that at least 3,309 civilians have been killed and 3,493 injured during the invasion, though it stressed that the actual figures were likely "considerably higher."

Go deeper ... UN chief: Russia's invasion is "limitless in its potential for global harm"

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Go deeper