Civilians leave besieged Mariupol steelworks after Putin said not even a ‘fly’ should escape

Up to 25 civilians have fled a besieged steel factory in Mariupol where hundreds of civilians are reportedly still trapped inside.

The Azovstal steelworks, in southern Ukraine, is the only part of Mariupol that has still not fallen to the control of Vladimir Putin’s troops.

On 20 April, it was reported that the site was heavily bombarded by Russian troops. Since then, people have been trapped under the rubble.

Kremlin-backed media reported that 25 civilians – including six children under the age of 14 – had left the plant, but reports did not state where they went to. Ukrainian soldiers inside the steelworks put the number at 20 women and children.

Elderly people were reportedly also among those that left.

Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment, said elderly people, women, and children were being pulled “out of the rubble with ropes”.

He said those that left have been “transferred to a suitable place” with the hope that they get evacuated to Zaporizhzhia.

Vadym Boychenko, the mayor of Mariupol, told the BBC that people hiding out in the steel plant have been “on the borderline between life and death” and have been “praying for a rescue”.

Mr Putin last week declared that Mariupol – a port city on the Black Sea coast – had been captured, and ordered Russian soldiers to seal off the industrial area “so that a fly cannot pass through”.

Elsewhere, Angelina Jolie was reportedly spotted in Ukraine on a visit to the city of Lviv. In a video shared on Facebook, the actor can be seen smiling and waving at fans as she ordered a coffee.

Jolie has worked as a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency for many years, but the specifics of her trip to Ukraine are unclear.

Also on Saturday, Ukrainian officials accused Russia of carrying out missile strikes across southern and eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin has turned its focus towards these regions of Ukraine after failing, since the invasion was launched on 24 February, to capture Kyiv.

Since that date, thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 5 million people have fled the country as refugees as their towns and cities were destroyed by air strikes.

Putin’s forces have captured the town of Kherson in the south, giving them a foothold just 100 km (62 miles) north of Russian-annexed Crimea.

The troops have also mostly occupied Mariupol – which Russia had declared a victory for on 21 April, claiming that the soldiers had “liberated” the city.

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