The Ukrainian government has dispatched a convoy of buses to the besieged south-eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, in the hopes of evacuating citizens still stuck there.
Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, said 45 buses would be sent to Mariupol on Thursday, following Russia’s announcement of a temporary ceasefire for the city.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure that the buses get to Mariupol today and pick up the people who have not yet made it out of the city,” Vereshchuk said in a video message.
“Our military forces guarantee a complete ceasefire,” she said.
The bus convoy was to carry evacuees from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, about 200 kilometres away, via the Russian-controlled city of Berdyansk.
Several previous civilian evacuation efforts had failed due to the inability to establish safe exit routes amid the fighting.
Mariupol, a city on the Sea of Azov, had been surrounded by Russian troops since the beginning of March.
According to Ukrainian officials, more than 100,000 people are still in the heavily destroyed city, where there is a severe shortage of food, medicines, heat and power.
Before the war, almost 440,000 people lived there.
Vereshchuk also said that a humanitarian corridor had been established for evacuation of people from the Russian-occupied areas of Melitopol and Enerhodar, located to the west of Mariupol.
Russia attacked Ukraine five weeks ago.
According to UN figures, around 1,200 civilians have been confirmed killed, although the actual number is likely to be much higher.
Another four million had fled the country, the UN estimated.