Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were detained in Russian-held territory while attempting to evacuate desperate residents of Mariupol, a spokesperson told CNN Tuesday.
An evacuation convoy of seven buses accompanied by the ICRC was held up Monday in Manhush, a Russian-held town to the west of Mariupol, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team that was held by police in Manhush on Monday was released last night," an ICRC spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday, describing it as a "great relief to us and to their families."
Vereshchuk announced the ICRC team's release in a statement posted to Telegram earlier on Tuesday, remarking that "despite the promises of their leadership, the [Russian] occupying forces do not allow anyone to go to Mariupol."
"The occupiers blocked representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Manhush. They were released last night after negotiations and sent to Zaporizhzhia," Vereshchuk added.
The ICRC said it remains "focused" on efforts to evacuate people in the besieged city of Mariupol.
The team is focused now on continuing the humanitarian evacuation operation. This incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team, who have been trying to reach the city since Friday,” the ICRC spokesperson continued.
The ICRC delegation set off on its journey from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol last Saturday, an ICRC press officer told CNN.
Vereshchuk said a total of seven humanitarian corridors are planned for Tuesday around Ukraine, and that a convoy of seven buses was on its way from Manhush to nearby Berdiansk, accompanied by the ICRC.
Some context: Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said Monday his city was "on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe," with more than 100,000 people still requiring evacuation.
Boichenko said no evacuation buses had yet reached Mariupol, despite agreements between Russia and Ukraine to open humanitarian corridors. Some residents, he said, had managed to reach the nearby Russian-held city of Berdiansk in private cars, but added that the route was "very difficult and intermittent.