The civilians who arrived in Zaporizhzhia Tuesday were not the ones who were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol days earlier, according to its mayor.
The buses allegedly carrying Ukrainian civilians from the Azovstal steel plant were not actually from Mariupol but from “other cities,” Mayor Vadym Boichenko said during a briefing at Media Center Ukraine.
“The previous evacuation, which took place yesterday, which was presented by a number of media outlets as information that those were the residents of Mariupol who left, is not true. These people who were evacuated had nothing to do with the residents of Mariupol, they are from other cities,” Boichenko said.
People who fled from Mariupol and other towns arrive to a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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The mayor went on to say the evacuation process of Mariupol residents to Zaporizhzhia could take “a month or more, because in order for people to pass through checkpoints, certain security certificates are required.
In this photo taken from video smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (AP Photo)
“We are currently looking forward to the arrival of Mariupol residents in Zaporizhzhya,” he said. “One has to have a certificate to leave the city either to the territory controlled by Ukraine or Russia. People can wait a month or more to obtain such a certificate. It’s just a jeer. The occupiers are especially picky about civil servants and municipal employees. People are arrested and kept in inhumane conditions, in very cramped rooms.”
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On Tuesday, the arrival of the citizens was widely celebrated as a victory, including a statement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who announced the event during his nightly address.
“We finally have the result, the first result of our evacuation operation from Azovstal in Mariupol, which we have been organizing for a very long time. It took a lot of effort, long negotiations and various mediations,” Zelenskyy said.
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows damage at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
He added: “Today 156 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia. Women and children. They have been in shelters for more than two months. Just imagine! For example, a child is six months old, two of which are underground, fleeing bombs and shelling. Finally, these people are completely safe. They will get help.”
Some civilians from the Azovstal steel plant were taken to a separatist-backed village, but it is not immediately clear where the rest of the civilians are currently located.