Fighting endangers attempted evacuation efforts from besieged Ukrainian cities

A mother holding a 2-months-old baby is among those who have been able to flee from Ukraine. Here she is pictured at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland. Credit: AP

Ukrainian officials have said fighting and the looming threat of Russian air strikes are endangering attempted evacuations out of besieged areas from where residents are desperate to escape.

Mariupol and towns and villages in the regions of Kyiv and Sumy were among the areas Ukraine's Deputy PM had earlier said the government planned to use agreed humanitarian corridors to help locals out from.

"I hope that the day will go well, all the planned routes will be open and Russia will fulfill its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire regime," Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video address on Saturday.

But later in the day, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had opened fire on an evacuation convoy, killing seven people included one child.

People help an elderly woman to walk in Mariupol, with an apartment building hit by shelling in the background. Credit: AP

The governor of the Kyiv region has said threats of Moscow orchestrated aerial assaults and fighting were persisting, despite ongoing evacuation efforts.

The Donetsk region's governor, meanwhile, said constant shelling was hampering the delivery of aid into the encircled southern port of Mariupol.

The humanitarian situation is worsening in Mariupol- a city once home to 430,000 people- as unceasing attacks have thwarted numerous attempts to bring in food and water and to evacuate trapped locals.

This has been repeated elsewhere in Ukraine, with officials saying Russian troops broke a ceasefire last weekend.

Ukraine and Russia first agreed on March 3 to establish humanitarian corridors, but implementation to date has been slow and limited.

Is Russia likely to allow the safe evacuation of residents from besieged areas? ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports live from Kyiv

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said authorities had managed to evacuate almost 40,000 people from the cities of Sumy, Trostyanets, Krasnopillya, Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel and Izyum.

But not a single civilian was able to escape Mariupol on Thursday as Russian forces did not honour a temporary ceasefire to allow evacuations, according to Ms Vereshchuk.

Her comments came a day after the bombing of a maternity hospital in the city which Ukrainian officials said left at least 17 people injured.

The constant threat of shelling and attacks by Russian forces has led to the evacuation of some 2.5 million Ukrainians, with many temporarily finding refuge in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Moldova.

There is an increasingly urgent need for those left to be allowed to leave as water and medicine grow more and more scarce across the country.

The International Committee for the Red Cross has painted a bleak picture of the humanitarian crisis unfolding at rapid pace in Ukraine.

One of the charity's workers, who is taking shelter in the organisation's office in Mariupol, described the situation in the city.

“There's no electricity, water and gas supply. Meaning no means for heating. Some people still have food, but I’m not sure for how long it will last. Many report having no food for children,” they said.

“People report varying needs in medicine. Especially for diabetes and cancer patients. But there is no way to find it anymore in the city."

"We have now approximately 65-66 people in our building."

"We keep the shelter, the basement, only for children and their mothers. All other adults and children above twelve they sleep in the office. It’s really cold."

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