Kiev ready for talks for Azovstal evacuations: Zelensky
Ukraine stresses that it is ready to hold talks with Moscow for evacuations from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol after Russia had extended a hand for evacuations that Kiev turned down earlier.
Kiev is ready to begin immediate negotiations with Russia on arranging safe evacuations of civilians from the Azovstal plant and other areas of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.
"Ukraine is ready for immediate negotiations on the evacuation of people from Mariupol and expects the UN assistance," Zelensky said at a joint press conference with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Earlier today, the UN chief met with the Ukrainian president in Kiev for discussions over the situation in the country. The official later said that he and Zelensky addressed the UN plan on Mariupol.
United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Wednesday the organization was working cooperatively with both Russia and Ukraine on the situation at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
"We are working cooperatively with both the authorities in Russia and with the authorities in Ukraine," Haq told a briefing.
The situation at the Azovstal plant, where the Ukrainian forces remaining in Mariupol are holding out, was among the key topics of Tuesday's talks in Moscow between UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Guterres in Moscow while Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' spokesperson, said Putin had agreed to the involvement of the UN and the Red Cross in the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant, though the Kremlin explained that there were no official agreements on the issue.
The situation at the Azovstal plant, where the Ukrainian forces remaining in Mariupol are holding out, was among the key topics of Tuesday's talks in Moscow between Guterres and Putin.
The Kremlin had announced Thursday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin addressed the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Ukraine and Donbass.
The talks came after Ukraine declared a halt to all humanitarian corridors allowing civilians to be evacuated from war-torn regions of the country earlier in the month, citing "dangers".
The city has been a playground for Ukrainian provocations since the war broke out in the country on February 24. The Russian Defense Ministry had revealed that Ukrainian nationalists in Mariupol used about 150 civilians as human shields and opened fire against DPR fighters from behind the civilians' backs.
The Russian Armed Forces had renewed their offer for nationalist Ukrainian militants and foreign mercenaries remaining at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to halt their hostilities and lay down their arms on Wednesday.
All of Mariupol's urban area has been cleared of Ukrainian troops, with more than 4,000 soldiers eliminated over the past day alone, the Russian Defense Ministry said less than two weeks ago.