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Ukraine war: Relief for those evacuated from Azovstal – but they will never escape the memories of Mariupol | World News

The convoy arrives after many delays; the first thing we see is a police car, its lights flashing. 

Behind it are five coaches carrying people – who’ve defied the odds – and escaped the Azovstal steel works.

The Soviet-era plant has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and defiance.

Crowds of press have gathered to witness and document this story of hope.

It’s also a rare win for diplomacy in a brutal conflict, which shows no sign of ending.

As they step off the buses some of the evacuees look confused, others are surprised at the reception. All are relieved that they have survived.

Ukraine news live: Mariupol evacuees reach safety as steelworks ‘turning into a tomb’

Coaches of refugees from Mariupol have escaped
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Coaches of refugees from Mariupol have escaped

Oksana arrived with her two children after spending weeks underground.

She tells me she thought they’d never get out alive.

“They’re bombing Azovstal all the time. They’re using jets. When we were evacuated it was calm at that moment but it was really scary because for two months they were bombing us from three sides – by sea, from the air, and with grad rockets.”

The evacuation mission started on Friday. Those trapped had to clamber through the ruins of the plant. Many areas of it have been obliterated.

And throughout the operation, they feared that the fragile ceasefire would break.

Eventually, the evacuees were taken to a camp in Russian-occupied territory where they were searched and their fingerprints were taken.

Only then were they allowed to leave.

Many of the families of the people who were stuck in the steelworks thought they would never see the day when their relatives would reach the relative safety of Ukrainian-held territory.

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Civilians flee under ceasefire

But there are fears still for those that remain trapped, as terrifying new reports of atrocities emerge, in a city that’s been destroyed beyond recognition.

There are 100,000 civilians still left in Mariupol living in horrific conditions.

Some managed to leave on their own, taking advantage of the ceasefire.

Many of them arrived at the reception point in battered cars with stories of terror and survival.

Natasha told me the last few months were “beyond frightening”.

Her home, she said, had turned into “a living hell”.

Inside the aid tent, we meet Marina. She still can’t believe she’s got here with her children.

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On her phone, she shows me pictures she smuggled out on an SD card – through many Russian checkpoints.

Neighbourhood after neighbourhood has been wrecked.

And newly dug cemeteries, she says, are all over the city.

“A woman from my block was blown up and they just covered her. Nobody touched her because the shelling was all the time and nobody could go there.

“And also her body was ripped apart and it was shocking for people to collect the pieces. She was lying like that for 20 days – and animals started eating her remains.”

There are still many civilians trapped inside the Azovstal works and a large number of fighters who are refusing to surrender.

What happens to them nobody knows.

Ukranian refugees
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These refugees have defied the odds
Ukranian refugees
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There are 100,000 civilians still left in Mariupol living in horrific conditions

But Russia has resumed its attack on the plant making it impossible at the moment to get more people to safety.

For those that have made it out, it’s a time to be reunited with loved ones, but the memories of what they have seen and have left behind will be difficult to escape.


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