Russia claimed to have captured the Azovstal plant complex in Mariupol and also said it had captured the strategic port city on Saturday. Russia says it has complete control of Mariupol, and an Associated Press news agency reported that Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the city as a whole was now under the control of Russian forces.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said 2,439 of the so-called “Nazis of Azov” were among those who laid down their arms, adding that the last group of 531 Ukrainian soldiers were also among those who surrendered.
The Ukrainian government has not yet confirmed this development.
Earlier in April, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian army not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, but closed it in such a way that “a fly cannot enter”.
The Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol was the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the city and has been the site of a fierce battle between the two sides since last month. However, for military analysts, the victory was likely to be symbolic since most of the city was effectively under Russian control.
However, the city has been transformed from a bustling coastal mall into a jungle of scorched and smoking concrete rubble due to heavy fighting.
Russian forces, inciting the war on Ukraine under the guise of a military operation and at the direction of Putin, inflicted severe damage on the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal steel plant and other parts of the port city, killing more than 20,000 civilians. It also displaced more than a million people.
Russia said the leader of the so-called “Nazi of Azov” was escorted to another location by an armored vehicle.
Civilians in Mariupol – some 100,000 people where more than 400,000 have fled the war – still suffer from no food, water, heating or electricity. Most have no shelter over their heads as buildings have been left smashed or hollowed out by the constant bombardment since April.
The capture of Mariupol allows the Russians to build a land bridge to Crimea and to take full control of the Sea of Azov, essentially cutting off Ukraine’s maritime trade. Mariupol bore the brunt of the conquest and has been under siege – a medieval technique of forcing castles into submission – since the beginning of the conquest.
Civilians dug makeshift graves to bury dead civilians and troops. The Russians targeted a maternity hospital, a theater, and residential communities.
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