Russian forces ‘block Mariupol evacuation buses and seize humanitarian aid’

Fresh efforts by Ukraine to rescue civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol were hampered after Russian forces allegedly blocked buses and stole humanitarian aid.

Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian soldiers blocked a convoy of 45 buses headed to Mariupol to evacuate people after Moscow agreed to a limited cease-fire.

“The Russian Federation, again, does not let our buses pass,” she said, adding that buses were stopped outside Berdyansk, about 75km to the west.

Only 631 people were able to get out of the city in private cars, she added.

Ms Vereshchuk also accused Russian soldiers of seizing 12 Ukrainian trucks that were delivering humanitarian supplies to Mariupol.

“Tomorrow we will continue trying to push through a humanitarian corridor to Mariupol so as not to leave our people on their own,” she said in an online post.

The Russian military allegedly stole about 14 tons of humanitarian aid along with 12 buses that had food and medicine supplies, according to the Kyiv Independent.

A mother hugs her daughter as they, with other people who mainly came from the cities of Mariupol and Melitopol, eat at the evacuation point in Zaporizhzhia on 26 March


Before the relief efforts began, Ms Vereshchuk said they were confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that the Russian Federation is ready to open access for the humanitarian convoy to the city of Mariupol.

The ICRC had said that “the lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it”.

The city has suffered some of the worst impacts of war and was described as “worse than hell” by those who escaped in their own cars or on foot under shelling.

This map shows the extent of Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Press Association Images)

About 170,000 people are thought to still be stranded in the strategic city, which has been under bombardment for weeks. There were about 430,000 people in the city before the war but the numbers have been reduced following multiple evacuation efforts. Many have also died in attacks on a maternity hospital, fire departments, and civilian homes in the past few weeks.

The city, which is now mostly destroyed, has been cut off from supplies such as water, electricity, mobile network, heating system, and food since a few weeks into the war in March. People have been reduced to tapping their radiators for water, melting snow, drinking rainwater, or running through shelling to get to springs.

Meanwhile, Russian forces left the heavily contaminated Chernobyl nuclear site on Friday morning after soldiers received “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches in the forest.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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