Ukraine’s president has said a first group of “about 100” civilians has been evacuated from a Mariupol steelworks, where thousands have been stuck below ground in dreadful conditions.
President Zelenskyy tweeted that the group was heading to a “controlled area” and would arrive in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday.
A UN spokesperson said the “safe passage operation” began on 29 April and was being coordinated with the Red Cross, Russia and Ukraine.
Occupied city switches to Russian rouble – Ukraine live updates
Mr Zelenskyy tweeted: “Grateful to our team! Now they, together with #UN, are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant.”
The Azovstal steelworks is the last defensive stronghold in the southern city, with Ukrainian forces continuing to defend the site, which has a network of tunnels and bunkers.
Ukraine has not said how many soldiers are stationed there, but Russia has put it at about 2,000. They have been sheltering alongside around 1,000 civilians.
Forty-six people in two groups left the residential area around the the plant on Saturday and were given food and shelter, said Russian news agencies.
The Ukrainian deputy commander at the steelworks put the number at 20.
On Sunday, a convoy of UN and Russian military vehicles took more than 50 people to tented accommodation in the village of Bezimenne, about 18 miles (30km) east of Mariupol, according to Reuters.
About 100,000 civilians are still in the wider city of Mariupol, where thousands of Ukrainians have been killed in relentless attacks that have devastated residential neighbourhoods.
The situation on 1 May
• Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, meets President Zelenskyy in Kyiv
• UK ambassador feels “comfortable” after returning to the capital – despite Russian threats
• Russia claims Ukrainian shelling in the occupied Kherson region has killed and wounded civilians
• Putin has been forced to merge and redeploy depleted units in Ukraine, UK defence chiefs say
• Former US marine’s family say he’s died in Ukraine, in what would be first known death of an American in the war
• Hollywood star Angelina Jolie visits refugees in Lviv
Video and images from inside the Mariupol steelworks have been shared by two Ukrainian women, who said their husbands were in the Azov regiment and among the fighters refusing to surrender.
Civilians evacuated from Azovstal pictured with pro-Russian troops in Bezimenne, about 18 miles east of Mariupol
Two women show photos of their husbands who they say are fighting inside the steelworks
The footage showed men with stained bandages, while others had open wounds or amputated limbs.
The women said some of the wounds were rotting with gangrene and that very few medical staff were treating at least 600 people.
In the video, the men said that they ate just once daily and shared as little as 1.5 litres of water among four people.
About 1,000 civilians and 2,000 fighters are estimated to be at the steelworks
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Mariupol field hospital reportedly hit
The women claimed the video was taken in the past week in the warren of passageways under the plant.
One shirtless man appeared to be in pain as he described having two broken ribs, a punctured lung and a dislocated arm that “was hanging on the flesh”.
He said: “I want to tell everyone who sees this: If you will not stop this here, in Ukraine, it will go further, to Europe.”
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Ukrainian forces were fighting village by village on Saturday to hold back a Russian advance in the country’s east.
Moscow has turned its attention to the region, known as the Donbas, after failing to capture the capital Kyiv.
On Sunday, Kharkiv governor Oleh Synehubov said there was heavy shelling in parts of the northeastern city and told people to remain in their shelters.
The governor in Luhansk, Serhiy Gaidai, also urged people to evacuate while they still can amid fears that Russia is preparing to intensify its eastern push.
‘Thousands more’ Russian soldiers will be killed
President Zelenskyy warned in his nightly address on Saturday that Russia was “gathering additional forces” to launch new attacks.
However, he claimed Mr Putin had lost “more than 23,000 soldiers” so far and “thousands more will be killed and thousands wounded” in the coming weeks.
“Our defenders have already destroyed more than 1,000 Russian tanks, almost 200 Russian planes, almost 2,500 armoured fighting vehicles,” he said.
US Speaker Nancy Pelosi has met President Zelenskyy in the capital Kyiv
“Of course, the occupiers still have equipment in stock. Yes, they still have missiles to strike our territory.
“But this war has already weakened Russia so much that they have to plan for even fewer (pieces of) military equipment to take part in a parade in Moscow.”
Mr Zelenskyy also spoke of missile strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region and in Odesa, including a rocket attack he said destroyed a runway at the southern city’s main airport.
Kyiv ‘the right place to be’ – UK ambassador
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to give extra military aid after speaking to Mr Zelenskyy on the phone.
The two leaders discussed the UK’s continued support and Mr Johnson said he was “more committed than ever to reinforcing Ukraine and ensuring Putin fails”.
A Downing Street spokesperson said they also discussed Mariupol and the UN-led effort to evacuate civilians.
Britain is one of the largest suppliers of arms to Ukraine.
It has already sent more than 5,000 anti-tank missiles, 1,360 anti-structure munitions, five air defence systems with more than 100 missiles, and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Meanwhile, UK ambassador Melinda Simmons has said she feels “comfortable” after returning to Kyiv despite Russian threats against diplomats.
Ms Simmons arrived late on Friday after Britain said it would be reopening its embassy in a show of support.
She told The Observer it “absolutely feels like the right place to be” despite the risk – and that there were so far 27 ambassadors in the city.
“I am here with a heightened level of security protection and bearing in mind that potential risk, but for now I feel comfortable working under those circumstances,” said the ambassador.