“Today, for the first time in all the days of the war, this vitally needed (humanitarian) corridor has started working,” he said in a pre-recorded address published on his Telegram channel. Later Sunday, one of the plant’s defenders said Russian forces resumed shelling the plant as soon as the evacuation of a group of civilians was completed Sunday.

The long-awaited effort to evacuate civilians from a steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was underway Sunday, as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed she visited Ukraine’s president to show unflinching American support for the country’s defense against Russian aggression, AP reports.

U.N. humanitarian spokesman Saviano Abreu said the operation to bring civilians out of the sprawling Azovstal steel plant was being carried out with the International Committee of the Red Cross and in coordination with Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Video posted online by Ukrainian forces showed elderly women and mothers with small children bundled in winter clothing being helped as they climbed up a steep pile of debris from the plant’s rubble, and then eventually boarding a bus.

The evacuation operation drew praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said more than 100 civilians — primarily women and children — were expected to arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday.

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