A second attempt at a civilian evacuation will begin in Mariupol later under a temporary ceasefire to enable thousands to flee, the city council has said.
Many residents of the besieged port have been sleeping in bomb shelters to escape days of near-constant bombardment by encircling Russian forces that has cut off food, water, power and heating supplies, according to the authorities.
The operation to allow them to leave, which follows a thwarted bid on Saturday, will begin at midday local time from three locations in the city.
Ukraine invasion: Live updates
Buses are currently on their way to the city to take people along a safe “green” corridor through Portovskoye, Rozovka and Zaporozhye.
People will also be able to use private transport to travel in a column along the route, which will also be accompanied by the Red Cross.
The council said: “We ask all drivers leaving the city to facilitate the evacuation of civilians as much as possible – take people with you, fill the transport as much as possible.”
Other key developments:
Deviating from the route is strictly forbidden, the council added.
A safe corridor is also to be created out of the city of Volnovakha.
A previous attempt to set up a humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol was abandoned on Saturday with Ukraine accusing Russia of continuing to shell the area and Moscow claiming Ukrainian “nationalists” were not allowing civilians to leave the city.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence later said Russia’s offer of a ceasefire was likely a ploy to distract attention away from it resetting its forces for a renewed attack.
Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko said thousands of residents had gathered for safe passage out of the city on Saturday when shelling began and the evacuation was stopped.
The 44-year-old said: “They’ve been working methodically to make sure the city is blockaded.
“They will not even give us an opportunity to count the wounded and the killed because the shelling does not stop.”
Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
Having come to office in 2015 hoping to modernise the city, he said: “We were creating the conditions for people to have a comfortable life and dream for the future. And now they’re taking this future from us.
“Right now I feel like they’re tearing away my heart and soul.”
Capturing Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Five miles away from Kyiv, this town is being heavily bombed – and civilians are fleeing however they can
Nuclear threat, No-fly zones and who is Zelenskyy? – Ukraine crisis explained
‘Welcome to Hell’ – the message facing Russian invaders as Kyiv prepares for the fight of its life