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Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko on Wednesday urged the thousands of Ukrainians stuck inside the besieged city to head to specific evacuation routes while they still can.
“I appeal to the people of Mariupol who have already left and are safe today. If you still have relatives in Mariupol, try to contact them by all means,” Boychenko said in an announcement on Telegram.
“Don’t be afraid and evacuate,” he urged.
UKRAINE MARINE COMMANDER MAKES LAST-DITCH PLEA FOR EVACUATION FROM MARIUPOL
In a televised address earlier Wednesday, he said that 90 buses were heading to the port city in the hopes of evacuating 6,000 women, children and elderly ahead of what is expected to be an even more brutal fight for the strategic port city, first reported Reuters.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk also took to Telegram to announce that humanitarian corridors had been opened and directed people to city locations for evacuation starting at 2 p.m. local time – 7 a.m. EDT.
“Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today,” she said, outlining the route that passengers will take before ending up in the city of Zaporozhye – roughly 140 miles west of Mariupol.
“Given the very difficult security situation, changes may occur during the corridor action,” she warned.
Russia has reportedly allowed Ukrainian fighters until 2 p.m. local time to lay down their arms and evacuate, though it is unclear how long the humanitarian corridors will remain open.
Russia denies purposefully attacking civilians.
NOT A SINGLE UKRAINIAN SOLDIER ACCEPTED RUSSIA’S MARIUPOL SURRENDER OFFER: REPORT
Ukrainian authorities have been attempting to facilitate humanitarian corridors to evacuate those stuck inside the city for weeks, but failed evacuation efforts have left 100,000-120,000 residents trapped inside.
Russian forces claimed they had opened a corridor Tuesday in an attempt to root out resistance fighters who have remained hunkered down in tunnels under a steel plant.
But Ukrainian officials warned that no such agreement had been reached and that four people were killed attempting to flee the city.
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Mariupol has been pummeled for weeks by Russian shelling as Moscow looks to secure the port city to gain better access to the Sea of Azov and secure direct coast-to-coast access to Russia.
U.S. defense officials maintain that Mariupol is contested and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to keep fighting for it.