After weeks of bombardment and delays, progress is being made in efforts to evacuate civilians from the port city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian president’s office said on Friday. Nearly 500 civilians have been rescued in a United Nations-led operation, said Andriy Yermak, who heads the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He announced the figures in a post on Telegram, adding that Kyiv will “do everything to save all its civilians and military” stuck in the heavily damaged city that is almost completely under the control of Russian forces. The UN is set to send in a new convoy later on Friday in an effort to rescue hundreds more civilians who remain trapped in the city’s Azovstal steel plant. Despite Russia’s announcement of a three-day daytime ceasefire, fighting reportedly has continued at the complex.

The UK Defense Ministry confirmed that Russian forces are carrying out a ground assault on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, despite claims from Moscow that it only seeks to seal off the plant. In an update posted on Twitter, the UK Defense Ministry said the efforts to seize the plant “come at a personnel, equipment and munitions cost to Russia.” The ministry added that the push to capture Azovstal is a likely bid by Russian President Vladimir Putin “to have a symbolic success in Ukraine” linked to the upcoming May 9 Victory Day commemorations. On Thursday evening, the Ukrainian government said Russian forces had infiltrated the site and were shelling the site. Moscow denied that its troops were storming the plant. Ukrainian forces and hundreds of civilians are still holed up in the plant, which has faced heavy shelling for weeks. A new UN convoy is set to evacuate more civilians from the besieged plant later on Friday.


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