Ukraine: All women, children and elderly out of Mariupol steel plant as bombardment continues

ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia reports on the situation at the Azovstal steel plant as children, women, and older people are brought to safety

All women, children and elderly people have been successfully evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant under Russian bombardment, Ukraine's deputy prime minister has said.

Ukrainian fighters in the Azovstal plant are the final stand against a complete takeover by Russian troops of Mariupol.

Civilians have been inside the plant, alongside the resistance, as Russian fire continued in the area - making evacuation operations difficult.On Saturday, Iryna Vereshchuk said: "The president’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed".

It remains unclear what will happen to the estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters there, both those still in combat and hundreds who are believed to be wounded.

In recent days, the Ukrainian government had been reaching out to a variety of international organisations to try and guarantee them safe passage out of the plant.

The escape of the civilians puts new pressure on Ukraine to find a way out for the fighters, who had vowed not to surrender. Already, Russian forces had probed the steel works and even reached into its warren of tunnels, according to Ukrainian officials.

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Three Ukrainian fighters were killed and six more were wounded during Friday’s evacuation attempt.

Captian Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said his troops had waved white flags and accused Russian forces of firing an anti-tank weapon at a vehicle.

Russia had been trying to clear the plant, the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance, before it marks Victory Day on Monday.

That commemoration honours the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II and there is thought Russia could use the occasion to fully claim Mariupol.

A woman looks on a crater of an explosion after Russian airstrike in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region. Credit: AP

The UK, meanwhile, has announced it will provide an extra £1.3 billion in military support to Ukraine - the highest rate of UK military spending on a conflict since the height of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and leaders from other G7 nations will hold talks with Ukrainian president Mr Zelenskyy on Sunday to discuss the further support on offer.

The £1.3 billion, drawn from the UK’s reserves, includes £300 million of military kit promised by Mr Johnson earlier this week, such as anti-battery radar systems to target Russian artillery, GPS jamming equipment and night vision devices.

Officials said the announcement would help support the British arms industry, which could benefit from the global shift away from reliance on equipment from Vladimir Putin’s sanction-hit Russia.

The PM said: “Putin’s brutal attack is not only causing untold devastation in Ukraine, it is also threatening peace and security across Europe.

“The UK was the first country to recognise the scale of the threat and send arms to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.

“We will stand by that endeavour, working with our allies to ensure Ukraine can continue to push back the Russian invasion and survive as a free and democratic country.

“In the process, we are bolstering our own security and economy, turbocharging the development and production of cutting-edge defence equipment here in the UK.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Boris Johnson in Kyiv in April. Credit: AP

Other key updates from the war in Ukraine:

  • The most intense fighting in recent days has befallen eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a fierce race to capture territory not under their control. Western military analysts said a Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing around the northeastern city of Kharkiv while the Russians made minor gains in Luhansk, an area where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.

  • Six Russian cruise missiles fired from aircraft hit the region of Odesa on Saturday, where authorities have a curfew in place until Tuesday morning. 

  • Also Saturday, a Russian missile destroyed a national museum in the Kharkiv region dedicated to the life and work of 18th-century philosopher Gregory Skovoroda, the local council said.

  • President Joe Biden on Friday authorized the shipment of another $150 million in military assistance for Ukraine for artillery rounds and radar systems in its fight against Russia’s invading forces.

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that President Zelenskyy and his people "embody the spirit of those who prevailed during the Second World War.” He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying “to twist history to attempt to justify his unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine."

  • The Italian finance minister has adopted a decree that will impede a mega-yacht from sailing away from a Tuscan port, after investigation indicated the luxury vessel Scheherazade has links to "prominent elements of the Russian government."