Around 100 Ukrainian civilians evacuated from Mariupol are expected to arrive in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya on May 2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, but hundreds still remain in bunkers under the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged Sea of Azov port city.
On the battlefront, a British intelligence estimate said on May 2 that Russia’s elite forces have suffered such large casualties that it will take years to replenish them. It said more than 25 percent of Russia’s invading force has been rendered “combat ineffective” since the start of the conflict.
Zelenskiy hailed the successful evacuation in a message on Twitter.
“Grateful to our team! Now they, together with [United Nations], are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant,” Zelenskiy said.
UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said on May 1 that the effort to bring people out of Azovstal was being done in collaboration with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.
Russia’s Defense Ministry put the number of evacuees at 80, adding, “Those who wished to leave for areas controlled by the Kyiv regime were handed over to UN and ICRC representatives.”
Ukrainian National Guard official Denys Shleha told national television on May 1 that at least two more efforts are needed to evacuate all civilians from Azovstal, where hundreds of people, many of them women and children, still remain in the besieged bunkers.
“Several dozen small children are still in the bunkers underneath the plant,” Shleha said.
Mariupol’s strategic location near the Crimea Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has made it a target for Russian bombardments that have turned the city, which had a pre-war population of some 400,000, into ruins.