Red Cross team attempting to help evacuate besieged Mariupol in Ukraine unable to reach city

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began more than a month ago, the key southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been a clear target of the Russians, as capturing that besieged city would link together the Russian separatist-controlled Donbas region in the east with the Russian-occupied Crimea in the south.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians remain trapped in Mariupol but a Red Cross effort to help evacuate some of those people were turned back on Friday due to a high threat of danger, CNBC reported.

The Red Cross team had been hoping to link up with a waiting convoy of evacuees to lead them out of Mariupol to a safer location in another Ukrainian city but was unable to do so.

Turned back but will try again

In a statement released Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that its team that was headed for Mariupol had been forced to “return to Zaporizhzhia after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed.”

The team reportedly consisted of three vehicles and nine people and would make another attempt on Saturday to reach the besieged city and “facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol.”

“For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the parties respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees,” the Red Cross stated.

If and when the safe passage operation does happen, the ICRC’s role as a neutral intermediary would be to accompany the convoy out from Mariupol to another city in Ukraine. Our presence will put a humanitarian marker on this planned movement of people, giving the convoy additional protection and reminding all sides of the civilian, humanitarian nature of the operation. The parties to the conflict would also need to fulfill the agreements reached to allow for this operation to happen.

Not the first failed rescue effort

Reuters reported on Saturday that it had confirmed the renewed efforts of the Red Cross team to reach Mariupol to help evacuate civilians there while Russian forces were said to be regrouping in advance of its own renewed assault on that city and the surrounding area.

Waiting in Mariupol for that Red Cross team is a convoy reportedly consisting of around 54 buses and an unknown number of private vehicles that would ferry civilians out of the city.

The outlet noted that the failed effort on Friday was the second time that the Red Cross had been unsuccessful in reaching Mariupol to render aid and facilitate evacuations, as a prior attempt in early March had also been similarly thwarted.

Inconsistent “humanitarian corridors” allow for some evacuations

Reuters also reported that Russian and Ukrainian forces had ostensibly agreed to allow for so-called “humanitarian corridors” to be formed that could be used by innocent civilians to escape the worst of the fighting.

However, some of those corridors have reportedly come under attack, and evacuees who managed to successfully traverse those corridors have shared harrowing accounts of being hunted along the journey or harassed at multiple Russian checkpoints.

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