Newsnight: ‘Broken’ evacuees seek refuge from Russian shelling as they escape ‘hell’

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Dr Dorit Nitzan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) incident manager for Ukraine, who has been closely monitoring the medical conditions of these evacuees, shared some of the stories while speaking on BBC Newsnight on Tuesday. The Azovstal plant was being shelled by “all kinds of weapons”, National Guard commander Denys Shlega said on Monday.

On Sunday, a number of civilians who had sheltered inside the last resistance stronghold managed to escape.

But “several dozen small children are still in the bunkers underneath the plant”, the commander said.

The shelling on the plant in the southern port city, which has been under intense Russian bombardment for weeks, began as soon as the civilians who had been evacuated left, he told Ukrainian television.

On Monday evening, footage emerged apparently showing a massive fire at the Azovstal, in what social media users said was a result of Russian bombardment.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 100 civilians had managed to escape in a convoy of buses and ambulances accompanied by ICRC and UN teams, joined by families and individuals in private vehicles.

On Tuesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy confirmed the evacuees had reached safety and that Russian troops were trying to storm the steelworks.

He said: “We finally have the result, the first result of our evacuation operation from Azovstal in Mariupol, which we have been organising for a very long time.

“It took a lot of effort, long negotiations and various mediations.

“Today 156 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia. Women and children.

“They have been in shelters for more than two months. Just imagine!

“For example, a child is six months old, two of which are underground, fleeing bombs and shelling. Finally, these people are completely safe. They will get help.”

As many of them flocked to the hospital, Dr Nitzan told Newsnight: “They came to us, really, if I may say, broken, no energy, really weak group of people, many children and older people as well.

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“We saw the horror, the fear and the hope they had when we approached them. And I remember that one woman whispered in my ear ‘I’m out of hell, I’m out of hell’.”

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