The steel-plant evacuation, if successful, would represent rare progress in easing the human cost of the almost 10-week war, which has caused particular suffering in Mariupol. Previous attempts to open safe corridors out of the southern port city and other places have broken down, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russian forces of shooting and shelling along agreed-on evacuation routes.

The first civilians evacuated from the bombed-out steel plant that has become the last stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol slowly made their way toward safety Monday, as others who managed to escape the city described terrifying weeks of bombardment and deprivation, reports AP.

More than 100 civilians — including elderly women and mothers with small children — left the sprawling, rubble-strewn Azovstal steel mill on Sunday and set out in buses and ambulances for the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) to the northwest, according to authorities and video released by the two sides.

Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC that the evacuees were making slow progress and would probably not arrive on Monday as hoped for. Authorities gave no explanation for the delay.

At least some of the civilians were apparently taken to a village controlled by Russia-backed separatists. The Russian military said that some chose to stay in separatist areas, while dozens left for Ukrainian-held territory.

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