Red Cross Claims Team Stopped, Held as It Tried Again to Reach Mariupol

An aid team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it was stopped during its attempt to reach the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol to evacuate residents.

ICRC spokesperson Jason Straziuso told Reuters the team members are being held about 12 miles west of Mariupol in the town of Manhush. Though he did not say who was holding them, he clarified that "it's not a hostage situation."

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in the Reuters report that "occupation authorities" are holding the Red Cross team.

Mariupol has seen some of the most devastating effects of the Russian invasion, with preliminary estimates indicating it will take about $10 billion to repair all the damage to the city. Russian officials said last week that they will halt fighting in Mariupol and allow citizens to evacuate, drawing skepticism from Ukrainian officials who agreed to a humanitarian corridor to give the people who have been trapped in Mariupol some relief.

Earlier Monday, Straziuso told Reuters that "security conditions" were preventing the team from reaching the city. The team has been trying to reach Mariupol since Friday.

In comments made on national television, Vereshchuk accused the Russian forces of blocking evacuation efforts, Reuters added.

Vereshchuk also discussed ongoing efforts to provide humanitarian relief in Luhansk and Donetsk, two areas that are part of Donbas, the region of Ukraine that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists and that Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent shortly before Russia invaded.

"The occupants in the Luhansk region constantly violate the ceasefire and shoot at the humanitarian convoy," Vereshchuk said. "Despite this, courageous policemen, military personnel and drivers under the supervision of the head of the Luhansk regional state administration continue to help civilians to evacuate."

Mariupol has been short on water, food and power amid the lack of a reliable humanitarian corridor. When the siege of the city began last month, Newsweek reported hospital employees were working for days straight and, in some cases, had to perform procedures without painkillers.

Control of the city would be useful to Russia due to its position as a port city and the fact that it would create a connection from Crimea, a region of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014, to the Donbas region.

A Russian airstrike last month on a children's and maternity hospital in Mariupol sparked international outrage, with Polish President Andrzej Duda calling it a war crime. Late last month, the United States also said that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine, based on its intelligence and public reports from civilians and journalists.

The ICRC did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Follow Newsweek's live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Update 04/04/22 5:20 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Red Cross Stopped Before Reaching Mariupol
The Red Cross said a team it sent to Mariupol, Ukraine, has been stopped. Above, a child is helped off a bus at the registration center in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, where the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had a team of three cars and nine staff waiting to head out toward the besieged city of Mariupol on April 1. Photo by Emre Caylak/AFP via Getty Images