A Ukrainian official said on Thursday that a convoy of buses en route to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol had been held up at a Russian checkpoint in Vasylivka, a city between the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia and the Russian-held city of Berdiansk.
“Our task is to open a humanitarian corridor and help people survive, especially civilians — women, children, the elderly,” according to Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian minister of reintegration of temporarily occupied territories.
“That is, another 100,000 women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities who need our and the world’s help,” she said.
Vereshchuk claimed that 45,000 Ukrainian citizens have been forcibly deported to Russia, a figure CNN could not immediately verify. The Russian military says that thousands have been “evacuated” to Russia from separatist-held regions and “dangerous areas” of Ukraine.
Earlier today, Mariupol Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told CNN’s John Berman that buses were moving through the evacuation corridor.
Orlov said up to 1,500-2,000 will be able to evacuate the city between today and tomorrow.
He added there are “constant street battles” in the city, but the Ukrainian army still controls the city center.
People remaining in Mariupol are “living like mouse. They are living underground in shelters, bomb shelters below. So people just do their best to be alive in this situation,” he said.
CNN’s Adrienne Vogt contributed to this post.