Hundreds of people — dozens of whom are injured — are thought to be inside the complex, the last Ukrainian holdout in the city following weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.
An estimated 100,000 people remain in the city, officials have said.
“Evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began,” Zelensky said.
“Grateful to our team! Now they, together with #UN [United Nations], are working on the evacuation of other civilians from the plant,” he added.
A convoy set off on Friday, traveling 230 kilometers to reach Mariupol on Saturday morning, the ICRC said in a statement.
“The ICRC insists on the fact that no details can be shared until the situation allows, as it could seriously jeopardize the safety of the civilians and the convoy. Relevant local authorities are communicating with the civilians about practical details,” the statement added.
The Russian news agency TASS, citing the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, reported that 80 civilians were rescued from the “territory” of the Azovstal plant and evacuated to a Russian-controlled compound a few miles away.
It’s unclear whether any of them came from within the plant itself.
“Civilians evacuated by Russian servicemen from the Azovstal plant, who wished to leave for areas controlled by the Kiev regime, were handed over to representatives of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry said.
‘We pray that everything works’
“If you have relatives or acquaintances in Mariupol, try to contact them by all ways. Call, text and say that it is possible to go to Zaporozhzhia, where it is safe,” the Council said on Telegram, instructing civilians to meet around “Port City” shopping center at 4 p.m.
“We pray that everything works,” it added.
A total of 46 people had left “residential buildings adjacent to Azovstal” and “were provided with accommodation and food,” TASS and RIA Novosti said, quoting the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The Russian agencies did not disclose where the evacuees were being taken.
Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, said the ceasefire, which was supposed to begin at 6 a.m., ended up starting at 11 a.m.
Palamar said 20 women and children had been taken to the “agreed meeting point,” in the hope that they would be evacuated to the “agreed destination” of Zaporizhzhia.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Mr Blow Up