Mothers trapped under Mariupol steel plant beg for evacuation: ‘We are at the brink of starvation’

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Mothers trapped in the tunnels deep under the Mariupol Azovstal steel plant have pleaded for an evacuation route to be opened for them and their children in a video posted Saturday by Ukrainian armed forces.

“Our food reserves that we’ve brought here with us are running out. We are at the brink of starvation, we won’t be able to feed even our kids,” one mother, who has been in the tunnels since Feb. 25 pleaded.

“We are begging for safety guarantees for our kids,” she added.

A woman holds a child in an improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022. 

A woman holds a child in an improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

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Footage taken from earlier in the week showed Ukrainian soldiers bringing supplies down to a group of mostly women and children bunkered in the Azovstal steel plant. 

The soldiers greeted the crowd of kids, who despite their excited faces at seeing the new arrivals, asked when they could be reunited with family members and said, “We want to go home, we want to see sun.”

The Azovstal steel plant has become a symbol of resistance against the Russian forces who have pummeled the city for more than eight weeks.

Some people who worked at the plant brought their families to the tunnels while others fled to site to hide from the barrage of missile and rocket fire.

“We just ran here after our building was shelled. We counted on a relief corridor but got stuck here, at the bomb shelter of Azov plant. And we are still waiting,” a woman described, noting she and her family had been under the plant since March 5. 

“On Feb. 27 my grandma, mom and me left home,” one girl told the soldiers, adding that they had been separated from her brothers. “After that we haven’t seen either sky or sun. We would really love to get out of here.”

Ukrainian authorities have estimated that roughly 1,000 civilians and soldiers have taken refuge in the tunnels. 

Russia has reportedly increased its bombing campaign on the plant in an attempt to pressure the Ukrainian soldiers to surrender. 

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Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for humanitarian corridors to be recognized to allow for the safe evacuation of women, children and the elderly who have been trapped in the tunnels for months.

“No day is quiet enough here, there is always shooting,” one woman said, noting that they are afraid to leave even to use the bathroom. 

Despite the dire circumstance even the Ukrainian soldiers appeared to have grins on their faces as they delivered supplies and spoke with the children and asked about games they were playing to keep busy. 

But when speaking with the women in the room the mothers pleaded with them to take them to safety. 

“Please take us from here. We want to see peaceful sky,” one woman said. “We want to breathe fresh air.”

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk has been attempting to facilitate evacuation corridors from Mariupol for weeks with an agreement allegedly being reached Saturday. 

But Vereschuk warned Ukrainians to “be careful” and said that Russian soldiers were running “parallel” evacuation routes headed for Russia, not regions to the west of Donetsk.

It remains unclear if the evacuation efforts were successful Saturday or if any of the civilians in the tunnels were able to reach these corridors. 

An armed serviceman of Donetsk People's Republic militia walks past a building damaged during fighting in Mariupol on Wednesday.

An armed serviceman of Donetsk People’s Republic militia walks past a building damaged during fighting in Mariupol on Wednesday.
(AP/Alexei Alexandrov)

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“We’d like to get the regime of silence [ceasefire],” one man told the Ukrainian troops.  “I’ve been here for 56 days and nights. There is a lack of food and water. 

“I just want to come out and see my relatives and friends,” he continued. “Get us a relief corridor so we could safely and in peace transfer women, kids and elderly because we won’t last long like this.”

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