Groups of dozens of unarmed civilians left the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol over the weekend, after the Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited both Moscow and Kiev to coordinate a UN-backed evacuation from the sheltered underground.
Nearly a hundred civilians were evacuated over the weekend from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian holdout in the city following weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.
Zelensky warned there would be an end to negotiations if Ukrainian soldiers were not given an evacuation route while Lavrov has called on Kiev to order the troops to surrender
Ukrainian civilians reached the safety of temporary camps after being boarded onto buses and evacuated from the ruined steelworks.
But militants of the Azov battalion including foreign mercenaries believed to be holed up under desperate conditions were not allowed to leave, with negotiations still ongoing.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday said in the last couple of days there was a “real ceasefire” for the first time, adding that more than 100 civilians had been evacuated.
But Zelensky warned there would be an end to negotiations if Ukrainian soldiers were not given an evacuation route.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on Kiev to order the troops in Azovstal to surrender.
The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross were said to be coordinating the "safe passage operation” following Guterres’ visit to both Moscow and Kiev just earlier.
The operation was taking place with the International Committee for the Red Cross and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.