Ukrainian authorities have said that a long-awaited convoy of humanitarian aid for the besieged city of Mariupol on the south coast appears to have come under fire.
Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukrainian minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories, said Tuesday: “Our humanitarian cargo is heading to Mariupol, and we are counting on the commitments made by Russia, that they are ready to adhere to the ceasefire. There are now signals that Russia is shelling the direction of humanitarian convoy.”
CNN has been unable to verify the status of the convoy
Russia had declared a ceasefire Tuesday for five Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol.
Vereshchuk said the convoy — consisting of eight trucks as well as more than 30 buses –had set out at 10 a.m. local time, heading towards Mariupol from the Zaporizhzia area. It was scheduled to pick up people — especially women, children and the elderly — on the way back.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation (JFO) also provided an update on the convoy. On its Facebook page, the JFO said that in order to evacuate Mariupol’s civilians, “the defenders of the city took a number of measures: they have cleared the roads of mines, removed engineering barriers, etc.”
“However, the occupiers did not let children, women and the elderly out of the city,” the JFO said. “The enemy launched an attack precisely in the direction of the humanitarian corridor.”
CNN has reached out to the Russian side for a response.
Residents of the key city of Mariupol have been facing a deteriorating humanitarian situation in recent days, as the city remains under siege by Russian forces determined to tighten their grip on Ukraine’s south.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that Russian forces are committing war crimes by holding 300,000 civilians “hostage” in the besieged city of Mariupol. He said one child died of dehydration on Monday.
“People are now in their 10th day without water, without electricity, living in shelters, shelters are packed. The essentials are missing, a lot of healthcare needs as well,” Mirella Hodeib, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, previously told CNN, saying that the situation in the city remains “desperate.”
CNN’s George Ramsay and Laura Smith-Spark contributed reporting to this post.