Civilians evacuated from Ukraine’s Mariupol; U.S. Speaker Pelosi visits Kyiv


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KYIV/BEZIMENNE – About 50 Ukrainian citizens arrived in the relative safety of a makeshift camp in Russian-occupied territory on Sunday after being evacuated from a ruined steelwork in Mariupol, where the United Nations said a “safe passage operation” was in progress .

With fighting in southern and eastern Ukraine along a broad front, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi pledged to continue US support for Ukraine when she met with President Volodymyr Zelensky in an unannounced visit to Kyiv.

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Russia said it had destroyed a stockpile of Western-supplied weapons at an airfield near Odessa in southern Ukraine.

Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Azov Sea, has endured the war’s most devastating siege, with Pope Francis telling thousands in St Peter’s Square on Sunday that it had been “barbarously bombed”, in an implicit criticism of Russia.

Moscow has turned its attention to the south and east of Ukraine after failing to capture Kyiv in the early weeks of the war, which has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million out of the country. forced to flee.

In Mariupol, Russia declared victory on April 21, even as hundreds of holdout Ukrainian soldiers and civilians took refuge in the city’s Azovstal Steel Works, a sprawling Soviet-era complex with a network of bunkers and tunnels. , where they are trapped with little food, water or medicine.

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Talks to evacuate civilians had repeatedly broken down in recent weeks, with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other.

But on Sunday, more than 50 citizens fled Mariupol and arrived at a temporary housing centre, a Reuters photographer said.

Civilian buses reached the village of Bezimen, about 30 km (18 mi) east of Mariupol, where a row of light blue tents was set up in a convoy with UN and Russian military vehicles.

A spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a “safe passage campaign” had begun on Saturday and was being coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Russia and Ukraine.

He said no further details could be issued so that the evacuation and the safety of the convoy would not be at risk.

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America ‘stands with Ukraine’

Footage posted by Zelensky on Twitter on Sunday showed him, surrounded by an armed escort and dressed in military attire, greeting a US congressional delegation led by Pelosi outside his presidential office the previous day. Were were

Pelosi, the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, said in a statement: “Our delegation traveled to Kyiv to send an unmistakable and wonderful message to the entire world: America is with Ukraine. Standing firmly.”

Moscow called its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and get rid of anti-Russian nationalism fueled by the West. Ukraine and the West maintain that Russia launched the offensive without provocation.

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Western countries have imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia and are shipping increasing amounts of weapons to Ukraine to help defend itself.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday that it launched a missile attack on a military airfield near the port city of Odessa, destroying a runway and a hangar that contained weapons and weapons supplied to Ukraine by the United States and European countries. There were ammunition.

On Saturday Ukraine said Russian missiles had downed a newly constructed runway at Odessa’s main airport.

It was not clear whether they were referring to the same incident and Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.

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In the east, Moscow has been pushing for full control of the Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists had already controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces before the invasion.

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On Sunday, Kharkiv region governor Oleh Sinyhubov warned residents in the north and east of Kharkiv city to stay in their shelters due to heavy Russian shelling. Reuters could not immediately confirm reports of shelling in the area.

Serhi Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, urged people to evacuate while it was still possible in a post on social media.

Zelensky said in a video address on Saturday night that Russia was “gathering additional forces for new attacks against our forces in the east of the country.”

Russia’s defense ministry accused Ukraine’s military of shelling a school, kindergarten and cemetery in villages in the occupied southern Kherson region, the Russian RIA news agency said on Sunday.

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The ministry said civilians were killed and injured, but did not provide further details. There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine and Reuters could not independently confirm the report.

In March, Russian forces captured the city of Kherson, 100 km (60 mi) north of Russia-associated Crimea.

Ukraine’s military said in a bulletin on Sunday that Russian forces were fighting to move north from Kherson to the cities of Mykolaiv and Krivi Rih.

(Reporting by Hamuda Hassan and George Silva in Dobropilia, Ukraine and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Reuters reporters, Writing by Rami Job, Clarence Fernandez, Frances Carey and Alex Richardson; Editing by David Goodman and Alexandra Hudson and Angus McSwan)

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