GENEVA, April 1 (Reuters) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is sending staff to the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and is hopeful that evacuations of thousands of civilians can begin on Friday, a spokesperson said at a press briefing.
“We have permission to move today and we are en route to Mariupol,” ICRC spokesperson Ewan Watson said. “We are hopeful it (the safe passage operation) will commence today.”
However, the body did not receive permission to take humanitarian aid with the convoy, and it departed without the pre-positioned medical and other supplies, he added, without giving details.
The Red Cross team consists of 3 cars carrying 9 staff members and plans to lead a convoy of about 54 Ukrainian buses and an unknown number of private vehicles out of the city.
The destination is yet to be determined but will be within Ukraine, Watson added.
Mariupol has been encircled since the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24. Previous efforts by aid agencies to secure access have failed. The Mariupol mayor said this week that up to 170,000 residents were trapped there without power and dwindling supplies while the U.N. human rights team is probing reports of mass graves.
Photo – A handout multispectral satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows fires in the industrial area, Primorskyi district of Mariupol, Ukraine,. EPA-EFE/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES HANDOUT