Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that "thousands" of civilians remain blockaded inside Mariupol as he likened the Russian siege of the southeastern port city to a "terrorist operation."
Ukrainian commanders on the ground have said Russian forces have not honored agreements to open evacuation corridors or enforce ceasefires and have continued to bombard the city.
Mariupol has been nearly completely destroyed by weeks of Russian bombardment. Tens of thousands of civilians still await evacuation, according to Ukrainian officials.
After numerous failed attempts to establish safe corridors out of Mariupol, four evacuation buses managed to leave the city on Wednesday.
In an interview with French television channel BFMTV, Zelensky said:
"As to our army, the forces of the Russian Federation do not allow us to pass through these occupied 120 kilometers so that we could reach the military unblocking of Mariupol today.
It's true. We can't do it today. We negotiate and open humanitarian corridors, and some people are leaving. But the thousands I told you about are blocked there, and so far Russia isn't allowing these people to get out from captivity."
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday proclaimed the effort by Russian forces to capture the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol a "success," but ordered Russian forces to stop short of trying to storm the city's besieged Azovstal steel factory, which is still held by Ukrainian forces.
Local residents, children, the elderly and the military are blocked in the city of Mariupol. It is not more like a war, but a terrorist operation by Russia against Mariupol and the people of this city."