Russia 'liberates' all of Mariupol barring a steel plant for strategy
- Putin ordered to block off the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol
- Ukrainians are reportedly taking shelter in the steel plant
- Putin said this was a "success" in Russia's special operation
Mariupol, the southeastern port city of Ukraine, was on the brink of falling as Russian forces continued the assault but Vladimir Putin had other plans. The Russian President ordered his forces to block the city in such a way "that not even a fly comes through."
Except for the Azovstal steel plant, a small pocket in the city of Mariupol, Russian forces have now captured the entire port city, Moscow said in a statement on Thursday. Ukrainian forces reportedly take shelter at the steel plant.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed this as a "success", his defence minister Sergei Shoigu said that the city has now been "liberated", according to reports from Associated Press.
But leaving the plant in Ukrainian hands robs the Russians of the ability to declare complete victory in Mariupol, which has seen some of the most dramatic fightings of the war and whose capture has both strategic and symbolic importance.
The scale of suffering there has made it a worldwide focal point, and its definitive fall would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, and free up Russian troops to move elsewhere in the Donbas.
Ukrainian officials did not comment on the latest remarks, but earlier said four buses with civilians managed to escape from the city after several unsuccessful attempts. Thousands more remain in the city, much of which has been reduced to a smoking ruin in a nearly two-month siege, with over 20,000 people feared dead.
Britain's Defense Ministry said in an assessment that Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of its annual May 9 Victory Day celebrations, Associated Press reported.