Moscow/Kyiv, May 4 (EFE).- Russia will suspend military operations around the Azovstal industrial complex in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol during designated periods for the next three days to enable the evacuation of civilians, the defense ministry said Wednesday.
“The Russian armed forces will from 8am to 6pm (Moscow time/05:00-15:00 GMT) on May 5, 6 and 7 open a humanitarian corridor from the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant to evacuate civilians,” the ministry said in a statement.
“During this period, the Russian armed forces and formations of the Donetsk People’s Republic will unilaterally cease any hostilities,” the statement said.
The units besieging the complex that is the last redoubt of Ukrainian forces in the city on the Black Sea will pull back to a “safe distance” and the civilians leaving the plant will be given the choice of evacuation to territory under Kyiv’s control or to Russia.
Around 160 civilians have been evacuated from Azovstal by a Red Cross and United Nations convoy, though Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko estimates that an estimated 200 non-combatants remain inside the plant along with the soldiers.
He also said on Ukrainian television that contact had been lost with the troops inside the complex, but Kyiv’s chief negotiator in talks with Russia, Davyd Arakhamiya, told Radio Free Europe later Tuesday that communication with the soldiers had been re-established.
He said that Russian troops were already on the grounds of the complex, which covers 11 sq km (4.2 sq mi) near the port. EFE mos-int/jt