April 30 (UPI) — Ukrainians began evacuating civilians from the village of Ruska Lozova on Saturday as leaders in Mariupol hoped to secure at least one route to leave the city on the southern coast.
Ruska Lozova, located just outside the northeast city of Kharkiv, came back under Ukrainian control after being under Russian occupation for more than a month, the regional governor said, according to Euronews.
The governor said about half the village’s population escaped on foot, in buses or by car.
“We were hiding in the basement, it was horrific,” resident Ludmila Bocharnikova told Euronews. “The basement was shaking from the explosions, we were screaming, we were crying and we were praying to God.”
Meanwhile, in the besieged Mariupol, the city council said Russia was reluctant to allow safe passage for evacuees, but leaders hoped for at least one route.
“There is hope for the evacuation of Mariupol residents to territory controlled by Ukraine today from Port City,” which is a shopping mall, Mariupol city council said in a Telegram post. “We are waiting for confirmation.”
“We believe,” the city council added with a fingers crossed emoji.
“The occupiers allowed movement between the Left Bank district and other districts of the city on the right bank,” Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, said on Telegram, according to CNN. “The movement is open across the bridge to Mukhino.”
Some 100,000 people are still in Mariupol, which is a quarter of the population that it had before the Russia-Ukraine war broke out Feb. 24.
“Cholera, dysentery, and Escherichia coli: about 100,000 #Mariupol residents are in mortal danger not only due to shelling but also to intolerable living conditions and unsanitary conditions,” the Ukrainian Parliament said Saturday in a series of Twitter posts.
“The air temperature has already reached 20 degrees,” the Ukrainian Parliament added in the series of posts. “Powerful and deadly epidemics could soon break out in the city — due to the lack of centralized water supply and sanitation, the decomposition of thousands of corpses under the rubble, and a catastrophic shortage of water and food.
“The occupiers cannot provide the existing population with food, water, and medicine,” the posts continued. “They block all evacuation attempts. And without that, people will die. Now in the ruined #Mariupol, there are medieval living conditions. Immediate and complete evacuation is needed!”
The United Nations mission and the Red Cross are negotiating to secure the evacuation of hundreds of local people trapped at the Azovstal steel plant, the city’s last remaining holdout, Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko said.
Ukrainian officials said Thursday that Russia had carried out airstrikes on a field hospital within the plant.
Boychenko added that more than 600 were injured in the bombing.
An commander of a unit of the Ukrainian armed forces called the Azov regiment told CNN on Friday that children from 4 months to 16 years old were trapped inside, including some in cellars and bunkers that are now unreachable since they’ve been covered by rubble.
The attack prompted renewed calls from the United Nations to open up humanitarian corridors to the city.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a news conference in Kyiv that people inside the besieged city of Mariupol were in desperate need of help.
The Azov regiment posted footage from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on YouTube last week, which showed women and children underground in a dark, damp basement. Also, in the video footage, a woman said she’s not seen the sun in weeks, and will soon run out of food; an old woman with her head bandaged and bloodied shivered in a cot; and a baby wore a plastic bag fastened with duct tape around the waist since there were no diapers left.
During a phone call with Guterres, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is ready to support the United Nations’ work on evacuations and humanitarian aid, the president’s media office said Saturday.
Guterres said on Twitter Friday that the United Nations “will redouble its efforts to save lives and reduce human suffering.”
“In this war, as in all wars, the civilians always pay the highest prices,” Guterres added.
There have been 2,899 killed and 3,235 injured since the war began, according to a United Nations human rights office’s latest update.
Over 5.4 million people have fled Ukraine as refugees, as of Friday, U.N. figures show.