Residents of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol were poised on Friday to receive assistance and a safe evacuation route amid a deepening humanitarian crisis there, as an aid convoy was headed to the southern port city.
Just after noon local time, there were indications from local officials that some evacuations had begun, though their extent was unclear. It was also still unknown whether the much-needed aid had reached those remaining in the city.
Russian troops have surrounded Mariupol for weeks, and the residents who have managed to escape have painted a dire picture of deteriorating conditions there.
After Russia’s Defense Ministry agreed on Thursday to a temporary halt in hostilities, both sides said they would open a humanitarian corridor to allow for evacuations and aid deliveries. On Friday morning, thousands of residents were waiting to see whether the relief would arrive.
Because communication with the city has been largely cut off, it was difficult to immediately know whether the planned humanitarian corridors would hold. But around noon, the Mariupol City Council published a video of a convoy with a note that said, “Almost 2,000 people will be taken away by buses alone!”
Just after 11 a.m., the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is involved in the aid effort, posted a video from a staff member who was traveling to Mariupol. “We are currently on the move from Zaporizhzhia to go to Mariupol in order to ensure safe passage of the civilians who desperately want to flee the city,” the staff member said in the clip, which was posted on Twitter.
A passageway for evacuating people from the city of Melitopol, farther west, had also been agreed upon, according to Ukrainian officials, and people from both cities were expected to make their way to Zaporizhzhia, a city farther north.
Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol, speaking to Ukrainian national television on Friday morning, said that an evacuation convoy was gathering near the city’s fire department and that there were hopes that up to 2,000 residents would be able to evacuate.
There were reports on Thursday from a Ukrainian official that Russian forces had stopped some evacuation buses heading to Mariupol. The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that it was “desperately important that this operation takes place.”
“The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it,” the organization added.
Foreign citizens also remain in the city, including about 30 from Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu, the country’s foreign minister, said on Friday in televised remarks. He said that Turkish buses were waiting for them outside Mariupol.
“There are many civilians there, many wounded people,” Mr. Cavusoglu said. “They have to be evacuated, too, and treated.”
Safak Timur contributed reporting.