More than 5,000 civilians have been evacuated in the last 24 hours in Ukraine, the country’s deputy prime minister said Saturday.
Iryna Vereshchuk, who is also Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, said on Instagram that 5,208 civilians, mostly from the besieged city of Mariupol, have been evacuated to safe areas through humanitarian aid corridors.
As of Saturday, 10 humanitarian corridors have been designated to evacuate residents from settlements affected by the Russian "invasion," said the statement published by Ukraine's presidential office.
It noted that in the eastern Donetsk region the evacuation of people on private transport is planned from Mariupol to the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.
Mariupol residents can refuel cars for free in Berdyansk, a port city in the Zaporizhzhia region, said Vereshchuk, adding that at the same time, due to the blockade of buses by Russian forces at checkpoints, there will be "no centralized evacuation" of residents.
She said residents can turn to the humanitarian headquarters in Berdyansk to get the necessary help and shelter.
"According to our information, the occupiers have planned a demonstration action today - they are going to forcibly deport ethnic Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Meskhetian Turks from the city of Kherson to the temporarily occupied Ukrainian Crimea … The Russians understand that they are losing control, so they resort to propaganda - take people to Crimea, which is still under their control. However, these steps are futile and criminal," she said.
Crimea was invaded by Russia in 2014, while a conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Donbas has taken 13,000 lives since that time, according to UN figures. On the eve of the war, Russia recognized two separatist enclaves in Donbas as "independent."
Vereshchuk said residents in southern Kherson are "actively and massively protesting against the occupation."
"Kherson and Kherson residents, you are our heroes," she said.
The Russia-Ukraine war, which began Feb. 24, has met international outrage, with the EU, US and UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.
At least 1,081 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,707 injured, according to UN estimates, while noting that the true figure is likely far higher.
More than 3.7 million Ukrainians have also fled to neighboring countries, including over 2 million to Poland, with millions more displaced inside Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency.