Mariupol awaits first aid mission as convoy of coaches heads for city

Mariupol awaits first aid mission as convoy of coaches heads for city

Mariupol awaits first aid mission as convoy of coaches heads for besieged Ukrainian city to save 170,000 stranded civilians

  • Officials hope Mariupol ceasefire will last for planned civilian evacuation today
  • They were due to deliver essential supplies last night to families hiding for weeks
  • There was relentless bombing with no running water access, power or fresh food

A convoy of 45 buses was making its way to Mariupol last night as part of the biggest relief effort yet to try to save 170,000 civilians still trapped in the besieged city.

Russia agreed a ceasefire from 10am local time yesterday and officials are holding their breath that it will last for the planned evacuation today.

Some 17 coaches were en route along an agreed humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia, 130 miles north-west of the vital port city.

Another 28 were waiting to pass checkpoints further south in Vasylivka.

Russia agreed a ceasefire from 10am local time yesterday and officials are holding their breath that it will last for the planned evacuation today. Evacuees from the region are pictured above yesterday

They were due to deliver essential supplies last night to families who have been hiding in basements for weeks under relentless bombing with no access to running water, power or fresh food.

It is hoped the buses will leave packed with civilians in what would mark a huge humanitarian success.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is overseeing the operation, called on both sides to stick to the exact terms of the agreement. ‘It’s desperately important that this operation takes place,’ said Ewan Watson, ICRC spokesman. ‘The lives of tens of thousands of people depend on it.’

They were due to deliver essential supplies last night to families who have been hiding in basements for weeks under relentless bombing with no access to running water, power or fresh food. A destroyed apartment building is seen above in the city

The city was home to 450,000 people before war broke out, of which 140,000 managed to flee before the Russian siege began in February. It is feared 5,000 civilians have been killed and thousands more ‘abducted’ to Russian cities.

No official humanitarian buses have so far managed to get people out, but many have escaped in their cars – or even on foot – often under fire.

The refugees have told horror stories of bodies lining the streets and families forced to kill their dogs for food.

Vladimir Putin has made clear the bombing will continue after the humanitarian operation, insisting that the bombardment will only stop once all Ukrainian troops surrender.

The city would give Moscow access to a warm sea port and allow his forces to consolidate their gains in east Ukraine.

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