Zaporizhzhia: Almost 500 civilians have been evacuated from the devastated city of Mariupol and its besieged Azovstal steel plant in a UN-led rescue operation, the Ukrainian president’s office said Friday. The United Nations had said Thursday that a new convoy would evacuate civilians from the “bleak hell” of the factory, which has become the last pocket of resistance in the southern port city. “We have managed to evacuate almost 500 civilians,” Andriy Yermak, who heads Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on Telegram. He said Kyiv will “do everything to save all its civilians and military” stuck in the devastated city, adding that the operation was ongoing. The Russian military had announced a three-day ceasefire at the site starting Thursday but a Ukrainian commander said there was still heavy fighting at the sprawling complex. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians have been holed up for weeks under heavy bombardment, many taking shelter in the plant’s Soviet-era underground tunnels. Ten weeks into a war that has killed thousands, destroyed cities and uprooted more than 13 million people, Russia has focused its efforts on Ukraine’s east and south, and taking full control of the now-flattened Mariupol would be a major victory for Moscow. “We still have to evacuate civilians from there, women and children. Just imagine… more than two months of constant bombing and constant death,” Zelensky had said Thursday. Speaking to the Israeli prime minister Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said his military was ready to allow civilians to leave, according to the Kremlin. “As for the militants remaining at Azovstal, the Kyiv authorities must give them an order to lay down their arms,” Putin said. A commander of the Azov regiment defending the factory said in a video on Telegram that there was still heavy fighting. “The Russians violated the promise of a truce and did not allow the evacuation of civilians who continue to hide from shelling in the basement of the plant,” Svyatoslav Palamar said.