The last civilians trapped in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, were evacuated, officials said.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday that “all women, children and old people” were taken out of the underground bunkers of the vast steel mill, where they stood up to Russia’s attacks with little food, water, or medicine.
“This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation ended,” Vereshchuk wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
The steelworks, the last pocket of the Ukrainian resistance in the ravaged port city, became a symbol of resistance to Russia’s attempt to capture parts of eastern and southern Ukraine in the 10-week war. Hundreds of Ukrainians would remain there.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a night address, said over 300 civilians had been rescued from the plant and vowed to continue the “extremely difficult but critical efforts” to evacuate the trapped fighters.
“We pulled all civilians out of the Azovstal plant and are now preparing for the second phase of the evacuation mission to evacuate the wounded and the doctors,” he said. “Of course, we were trying to evacuate our military personnel, all the heroes defending Mariupol.”
He further said that authorities would also assist residents in Mariupol and surrounding settlements to evacuate them safely.