'Russia resumes shelling' after 100 civilians evacuated from Mariupol steel plant

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports on the evacuation of civilians from within the besieged Azovstal steel plant

Russian forces have resumed their shelling of a steel plant in the war-torn port city Mariupol immediately after the partial evacuation of civilians, a Ukrainian military officer has claimed.

Ukrainian National Guard brigade commander Denys Shlega said in a televised interview that the shelling began as soon as rescue crews ceased evacuating civilians at the Azovstal steel mill. The claim has not been independently verified.

He said at least one more round of evacuations is needed to clear civilians from the plant, adding that dozens of small children remain in bunkers below the industrial facilities.

The commander estimated several hundred civilians remain trapped at the site alongside nearly 500 wounded soldiers and numerous dead bodies. The plant is the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.

Rebecca Barry explains the conditions people are living under in the Mariupol steel plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said around 100 civilians had been successfully evacuated.

Video released by the Azov Regiment, which is holed up in the plant, purported to show women and children being rescued from bunkers underneath the steel works.

Footage showed civilians on board a bus with the wreckage of the city in the background.

Beyond the plant, as many as 100,000 people are believed to still be in blockaded Mariupol.

The city council said Monday is the scheduled start date for a wider evacuation of the besieged city.

Mariupol has seen some of the worst suffering of the war.

A maternity hospital was hit with a lethal Russian airstrike in the opening weeks of the war, and hundreds of people were reported killed in the bombing of a theatre where civilians were taking shelter.

The Soviet-era steel plant is the only part of the southern port city not occupied by the Russians. Those trapped inside have little food, water or medicine.

UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu called the situation "very complex" and said the evacuations were being done in collaboration with the International Committee for the Red Cross with Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy in his daily address on Sunday said: "Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vital green corridor has started working. There were two days of ceasefire for the first time in the (Azovstal) area.

"More than a hundred civilians have already been evacuated - women and children fleeing hostilities right there, right on the Azovstal plant. Given all the process complexities, the first evacuees will arrive in Zaporizhzhia tomorrow morning. Our team will meet them there.

"I hope that tomorrow all the necessary conditions will be fulfilled to continue the release of the Mariupol people. We plan to start at eight in the morning."

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Like other evacuations, success of the mission in Mariupol depended on Russia and its forces in a long series of checkpoints before reaching Ukrainian ones.

People who have fled Russian-occupied areas have at times described their vehicles being fired on.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes on which the two sides had agreed.

President Zelenskyy earlier described Mariupol as a “Russian concentration camp among the ruins”, warning on Saturday night that Moscow was “gathering additional forces for new attacks against our military in the east of the country.”

"All the leaders of the free world know what Russia has done to Mariupol. And Russia will not go unpunished for this,” Mr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Pope Francis again appealed for the safe evacuation of Ukrainians trapped in the steel plant, saying he weeps thinking of their suffering and how their city has been “barbarously bombed and destroyed.”

Civil evacuees sit in a bus in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Bezimenne, 20 kilometres east of Mariupol. Credit: AP

Elsewhere in the country, the Ukrainian army says that a Russian offensive along a broad front in the east has been stalling amid human and material losses inflicted by Kyiv’s forces.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Facebook post that Russian troops were trying to advance in the Sloboda, Donetsk and Tauride regions, but were being held back by Ukrainian forces that continue to fight village by village.

Separately, Ukrainian intelligence officials accused Russian forces of destroying medical infrastructure - taking equipment and denying medical care to residents in several occupied cities and towns.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence claims that ventilators and other equipment provided since 2014 by international donors and the government of Ukraine were removed from a hospital at Starobilsk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region.

Irpin Territorial Defence and Ukrainian Army soldiers hold flowers to be placed on the graves of comrades fallen during the invasion. Credit: AP

The same post alleges that tuberculosis patients were denied medical care in the Kharkiv region at Volchansk while several facilities were used to treat wounded Russian troops.

These claims could not be immediately verified.

Ukrainian officials also said Sunday that internet and cellular communications were cut in a large area in the Russian-occupied Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhia region and blamed Russian forces.

The London-based internet monitor Netblocks said the Kherson region lost 75% of internet connectivity beginning Saturday evening.