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ICRC regrets low number of evacuees from Mariupol, looks forward to more evacuations ASAP

KYIV. May 3 (Interfax-Ukraine) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) hoped for a much larger number of evacuees in the operation in Mariupol at Azovstal and calls on all parties to reach agreements as soon as possible on the continuation of such operations, reaffirming their readiness to continue participating in them, Head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine Pascal Hundt said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"This complex operation has allowed civilians to leave Azovstal and the Mariupol area, though we had hoped that more people would have been able to join. Similar agreements between the parties are urgently required to alleviate the immense suffering of civilians trapped in hostilities," he said.

Hundt said that 50 buses and 15 ambulances moved from Zaporizhia to Mariupol in a convoy, but as a result of the operation, 130 to 150 people were evacuated from the occupied territories to Zaporizhia. The ICRC representative said due to the fact that they had no idea about the number of people they could help evacuate, they, after consulting with the Ukrainian government, decided to mobilize as many buses as possible.

According to him, about 100, possibly 101 civilians were taken directly from Azovstal.

The head of the ICRC delegation said the agreement concerned exclusively civilians, and there was no agreement between the parties on the military.

He found it difficult to estimate how many more civilians were left at Azovstal, since the ICRC representatives did not manage to go down inside all the buildings. An ICRC spokesman, in response to questions, admitted that the remaining civilians may have many reasons why they did not come out, including the fear of going outside after four weeks in the shelter.

"The ICRC has not forgotten the people who are still there, nor those in other areas affected by the hostilities or those in dire need of humanitarian relief, wherever they are. We will not spare any effort to reach them," Hundt said, adding that the ICRC is extremely concerned about today’s data on the resumption of heavy shelling of Azovstal.

In response to a question about whether the occupants filtered the evacuees, the head of the delegation said that international law gives the parties the right to carry out security checks, but the ICRC was not involved in this process.

He confirmed that several people from the evacuees from Azovstal did not continue their trip to Zaporizhia, and this was their choice for one reason or another.

The ICRC representative said the convoy managed to take some more people during the movement in Zaporizhis. According to him, the number of applicants, for example, in Manhush and Berdiansk, was much larger, but this, unfortunately, was not part of the original agreement between the parties.

He also said the convoy included about a dozen sick and wounded civilians, but not in critical condition.

In general, Hundt described the operation as extremely delicate and complex, noting that it lasted five days and required constant negotiations between the parties, facilitated by the ICRC in coordination with the UN on all practical aspects.

The head of the ICRC delegation said the testimonies received from the evacuees were simply heartbreaking. Hundt said they believe that many more such operations are needed to alleviate the suffering of these people and this is an urgent appeal making today by them.