Russia communicating with Ukraine for civilian evacuation from Azovstal plant in Mariupol: Spokesman

Ukrainian troops, civilians reportedly stranded in Azovstal plant with Russian forces surrounding them.

Russia communicating with Ukraine for civilian evacuation from Azovstal plant in Mariupol: Spokesman

Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Friday that Moscow informed Kyiv about the order of civilian evacuations from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.

Konashenkov said the situation in Mariupol had normalized and residents could calmly wander the streets and humanitarian aid was provided to the city.

Noting that the Azov Battalion and foreign mercenaries from the EU and the US were besieged at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, he said their demands for the release of Ukrainian women and children allegedly standing by Ukrainian troops were ignored.

The order for civilian evacuation from the field of the Azovstal zone is communicated with the troops inside, he said, adding that Russian authorities were in contact with Irina Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister of Ukraine.

According to the spokesman, the Azov Battalion and foreign mercenaries could be identified as terrorists if they were keeping civilians hostage.

Russia uses high-precision weaponry against Ukrainian targets and they struck 13 Ukrainian military elements on Friday, including two headquarters and fortified posts, said Konashenkov.

Furthermore, he said Russian forces destroyed 140 planes, 107 helicopters, 523 unmanned aerial vehicles, 258 air-defense missile systems, 2,458 tanks and armored vehicles, 272 multiple rocket launchers, 1,069 howitzers and mortars along with 2,305 military vehicles have been destroyed since the start of the war.

Since the war began Feb. 24, the civilian death toll in Ukraine has climbed to 2,435, while 2,946 have been injured, according to UN estimates, with the true figure feared to be much higher.

More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled to other countries, with over 7 million more internally displaced, the UN refugee agency has said.

Hüseyin Demir