CARA ANNA and YESICA FISCH

ZAPOROZHIA, Ukraine (AP) – The long-awaited evacuation of civilians from a besieged metallurgical plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol continued on Sunday when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had visited the Ukrainian president to demonstrate unwavering US support. protection from Russian invasion.

A video posted by Ukrainian forces on the Internet shows elderly women and mothers with young children in winter clothes being assisted when they climb a steep pile of debris from Azovstal’s sprawling metallurgical plants and then board a bus.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that on Monday in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporozhye will arrive more than 100 civilians, primarily women and children.

“Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vital (humanitarian) corridor has started operating,” he said in a pre-recorded address posted on his Telegram messaging channel.

Mariupol City Council told Telegram that the evacuation of civilians from other parts of the city will begin on Monday morning. People who have fled Russian-occupied areas in the past have said their cars came under fire, and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes agreed upon.

Later on Sunday, one of the station’s defenders said that Russian forces had resumed shelling of the plant as soon as the evacuation of a group of civilians was completed.

Denis Schlega, commander of the 12th Operational Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine, said in a televised interview Sunday night that several hundred civilians remain trapped next to nearly 500 wounded soldiers and “numerous” bodies.

“Several dozen young children are still in the bunkers under the plant,” Schleg said. “We need one or two more stages of evacuation.”

Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which helps protect the steel plant, told the Associated Press in an interview with Mariupol on Sunday that even some of the wounded at the plant were difficult to reach.

“There is rubble. We do not have special equipment. It is difficult for soldiers to lift a ton weighing weapons only with weapons, ”he said. “We hear the voices of people who are still alive” inside the destroyed buildings.

Up to 100,000 people may still be in besieged Mariupol, including up to 1,000 civilians in dwarfs with about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters under a Soviet-era steel plant, the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.

Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of ​​Azov, is a key destination because of its strategic location near the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

UN humanitarian aid spokesman Saviano Abrew said the civilians, who have been at the plant for almost two months, will receive immediate humanitarian support, including psychological assistance, as soon as they arrive in Zaporozhye, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) north-west of Mariupol.

Mariupol has experienced some of the greatest suffering. The maternity hospital was hit by a deadly Russian air strike in the first weeks of the war, and it was reported that about 300 people died in the bombing of a theater where civilians were hiding.

The Doctors Without Borders team was at the reception center for displaced persons in Zaporizhia, preparing for the arrival of the UN convoy. Stress, exhaustion and low food supplies probably weakened civilians who found themselves underground in the factory.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Regiment Sviatoslav Palamar called for the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian fighters and civilians. “We do not know why they are not taken out, and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not discussed,” he said in a video released on Saturday on the regiment’s Telegram channel.

A video from inside a steel plant shared with the Associated Press by two Ukrainian women who said their husbands were among fighters who refused to surrender showed men with blood-stained bandages, open wounds or amputated limbs, including some with gangrene. . The AP was unable to independently verify the location and date of the video, which the women said was made last week.

Meanwhile, Pelosi and other US lawmakers visited Kyiv on Saturday. She is the highest-ranking U.S. lawmaker to travel to the country since Russia’s February 24 invasion. Her visit came days after Russia launched missiles into the capital during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

MP Jason Crow, a U.S. Army veteran and a member of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, said he came to Ukraine with three directions: “Weapons, Weapons and Weapons.”

In a televised address on Sunday, Zelensky said more than 350,000 people had been evacuated from combat zones thanks to humanitarian corridors previously agreed with Moscow since the Russian invasion began. “The organization of humanitarian corridors is one of the elements of the ongoing negotiation process (with Russia),” he said.

Zelensky also accused Moscow of waging a “war of destruction,” saying Russian shelling affected food, grain and fertilizer warehouses, as well as residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv, Donbas and other regions.

“What can be Russia’s strategic success in this war? Honestly, I don’t know. The ruined lives of people and the burned or stolen property will not give anything to Russia, ”he said.

In Zaporozhye on Sunday, when Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Day of the Dead, residents ignored air raid sirens and warnings to hide at home to visit the cemetery.

“If our dead could be resurrected and see it, they would say, ‘This is impossible, they are worse than the Germans,'” said Gennady Bondarenko, 61, celebrating the day with his family at a picnic table among the graves. “All our victims joined the battle, including the Cossacks.”

Russian troops have launched a major military operation to capture much of southern and eastern Ukraine after they failed to capture the capital, Kyiv.

In Russia’s heavy offensive, Ukrainian forces are fighting from village to village and more civilians fleeing air strikes and artillery shelling.

Ukrainian intelligence has accused Russian forces of seizing medical facilities to treat wounded Russian soldiers in several occupied cities, as well as “destroying medical infrastructure, seizing equipment and leaving the population without medical care.”

Getting a complete picture of the deployment of the battle in eastern Ukraine is difficult because air strikes and artillery shelling have made the movement of journalists extremely dangerous. In addition, both Ukraine and Moscow-backed insurgents have imposed tough restrictions on reporting from the war zone.

But Western military analysts believe the offensive is much slower than planned. So far, Russian troops and separatists appear to have made little progress in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military power in the east.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid have arrived in Ukraine since the start of the war, but Russia’s vast arms depots mean that Ukraine will continue to demand enormous support.

With a lot of firepower in store, Russia’s offensive could intensify and capture the Ukrainians. In total, the Russian army has about 900,000 men in active service, as well as a much larger air force and navy.

In the Kursk region of Russia, which borders Ukraine, an explosive device damaged a railway bridge on Sunday, a criminal case has been launched, the regional government told Telegram.

In recent weeks, a number of fires and explosions have taken place in Russian regions near the border, including Kursk. After the explosions, an ammunition depot burned down in the Belgorod region, and authorities in the Voronezh region said the air defense system shot down a drone. A fire broke out in an oil depot in Bryansk a week ago.

___

Fish reported from Sloviansk. Associated Press journalists John Gambrell and Yuras Karmanov of Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, and AP staffers around the world contributed to the report.

___

Follow the coverage of the war in Ukraine in the AP: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Previous articleWalking tours of the heritage of the African American Historical Society return from May 7. | History
Next articleSmith, McNeill by 4 strokes when the Mets defeated Phils behind Scherzer