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View of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine, May 15, 2022. © Reuters

Moscow said an agreement had been reached to evacuate injured Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, the besieged Ukrainian port city.

“On May 16, as a result of talks with representatives of the Ukrainian army blocked on the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol, an agreement was reached on the evacuation of the wounded,” the official said on Monday. Interfax news agency quoting the Russian Defense Ministry. saying.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately confirm or deny such an agreement with Russian forces, but did report that an evacuation operation was underway.

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar declined to reveal details on the grounds that “any information” could “harm the processes” underway.

“In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison implements the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people,” Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, said in a video address shared via Telegram.

“The defenders of Mariupol carried out the order, despite all the difficulties, repelling the overwhelming forces of the enemy for 82 days and allowed the Ukrainian army to regroup, train more personnel and receive large numbers weapons from partner countries,” Prokopenko continued. .

Dozens of civilians were evacuated this month in a UN and Red Cross operation from Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of more than 400,000.

Earlier Monday, relatives of Ukrainian fighters who had taken refuge in the underground catacombs of the Azovstal mill appealed for help to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting in Istanbul. Turkey has repeatedly offered to negotiate an evacuation from Mariupol and a peace deal to end Russia’s war on Ukraine.

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