The Red Cross said Monday that a team sent to help evacuate civilians from the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol was being held by police in Russian-controlled territory.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which for days has been trying to get a team to Mariupol to help provide safe passage for thousands of civilians seeking to leave, said it had been stopped in a nearby town currently under Russian control.
The team “is being held in the town of Mangush, 20 kilometres west of Mariupol,” ICRC spokeswoman Caitlin Kelly told AFP in an email.
“The team was stopped on Monday while carrying out humanitarian efforts to help lead a safe passage corridor for civilians,” she said.
Asked who was holding the team, she said “police”, without providing further details.
“The ICRC has been in direct contact with our colleagues and is speaking with the parties on all sides to bring clarity to the situation and allow them to resume their humanitarian work,” Kelly said.
Mariupol has been under siege from Russian forces for over a month, leaving the population to fend for themselves in conditions which have been denounced by the international community.
Previous attempts to evacuate residents have collapsed, though some have made the dangerous dash to freedom alone from the city, which housed approximately half a million people before the war began.
Mariupol’s mayor said Monday that a full 90 percent of Mariupol had been destroyed, and that around 130,000 people remained trapped as the city continues to be pounded by Russian bombardments.