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Ukraine evacuees flee to safety after ordeal in Mariupol steel works

The first evacuees from the ruins of Mariupol's Azovstal steel works were expected to arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia later on Monday after weeks of cowering from Russian shelling in underground bunkers.

The sprawling industrial complex in the Sea of Azov port city that has been devastated by weeks of Russian shelling has been a refuge for both civilians and Ukrainian troops as Moscow claimed control of Mariupol.

The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross began an operation coordinated with Ukraine and Russia on April 29 to bring out women, children and the elderly from the steel works.

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Some civilian evacuees reached Zaporizhzhia from Russian occupied territory on Monday morning after making their own way.

One of them, Natalya Tsyntomirska, arrived in a funeral service van. She said she had left the devastation of Mariupol some time ago and been hiding in a basement in a nearby village.

“Our house is completely destroyed. We had a two-storey building, it's not there anymore. It burned to the ground,” she said.

Two buckets of soup

Another evacuee, Yelena Aytulova, 44, described sheltering in a bunker in Azovstal since Feb. 24. She spoke to Reuters at Bezimenne, in an area of Donetsk under the control of Russia-backed separatists on the route of the UN/Red Cross convoy.

“For a month we were eating – over 40 of us – six tins of food. We boiled two buckets of soup out of them and that was it for the whole day,” she said.

She said some civilians remained there after she left.

“The soldiers came and escorted the first 11 people out, those who were seriously ill, had asthma or needed insulin and also three of us, randomly. More than 40 people, including little children are left there.”

Olga Savina, 65, said her home in Mariupol had also been destroyed.

“It can't be intact because there was bombing every day. All the time we spent in the bunker, they were bombing,” she said through tears.

Another convoy of civilians from the wider city was delayed as the buses had not reached the agreed pickup point, the city council said. Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to Mariupol's mayor, had earlier reported they had already left. The council urged the evacuees to remain in place at the agreed pick-up point.

There was no indication of a plan to pull out the Ukrainian forces holed up at Azovstal. These are thought to include members of the Azov regiment, the national guard, marines, border guards and other units.

Russia resumed shelling of the complex on Sunday once the evacuation buses had left the area, Andryushchenko said.

A group of relatives of the forces dug in there met on Kyiv's Independence Square on Monday to record a video appeal to Ukrainian authorities demanding that their loved ones also be evacuated from Mariupol. Some of them also headed down to Zaporizhzhia to continue to lobby.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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