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Ukrainian Civilians Evacuated From Mariupol; U.K. Says Russia's Elite Forces Gutted By Casualties

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service May 02, 2022

Around 100 Ukrainian civilians evacuated from Mariupol are expected to arrive in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya on May 2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, but hundreds still remain in bunkers under the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged Sea of Azov port city.

On the battlefront, a British intelligence estimate said on May 2 that Russia's elite forces have suffered such large casualties that it will take years to replenish them. It said more than 25 percent of Russia's invading force has been rendered "combat ineffective" since the start of the conflict.

Zelenskiy hailed the successful evacuation in a message on Twitter.

"Grateful to our team! Now they, together with [United Nations], are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant," Zelenskiy said.

Evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began. The 1st group of about 100 people is already heading to the controlled area. Tomorrow we'll meet them in Zaporizhzhia. Grateful to our team! Now they, together with #UN, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 1, 2022

UN humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said on May 1 that the effort to bring people out of Azovstal was being done in collaboration with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Russia's Defense Ministry put the number of evacuees at 80, adding, "Those who wished to leave for areas controlled by the Kyiv regime were handed over to UN and ICRC representatives."

Ukrainian National Guard official Denys Shleha told national television on May 1 that at least two more efforts are needed to evacuate all civilians from Azovstal, where hundreds of people, many of them women and children, still remain in the besieged bunkers.

"Several dozen small children are still in the bunkers underneath the plant," Shleha said.

Mariupol's strategic location near the Crimea Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has made it a target for Russian bombardments that have turned the city, which had a pre-war population of some 400,000, into ruins.

A maternity hospital was hit in a Russian air strike in the first days of the invasion, and hundreds of people were reportedly killed in the bombing of a theater.

As many as 100,000 people may still be in Mariupol, including an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters beneath the sprawling Azovstal complex, the only part of the city not occupied by the Russians.

The Ukrainian defenders in Azovstal posted videos on April 30 saying they were running out of food, water, and other supplies and appealing for help.

In its daily bulletin, Britain's Defense Ministry said that at the start of the invasion on February 24, Russia had committed more than 120 battalions representing some 65 percent of its entire ground combat capabilities.

"It is likely that more than a quarter of these units have now been rendered combat ineffective," it said, adding that some of its best units, including its airborne forces, have suffered the highest casualties.

"It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces," the British intelligence report said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, and dpa

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-pelosi- surprise-visit-zelenskiy-mariupol/31829116.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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