“The liberation of” the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is “a success”. Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu on Thursday. The meeting was broadcast on Russian state television.
According to Shoigu, the port city is now completely under the control of the Russian army, except for the site of the Azovstal steel factory, where the last Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol have entrenched. The number of fighters is estimated at a few thousand.
Putin ordered not to storm the steel factory but rather to block it. A storm is “inappropriate” in the eyes of the Russian president. According to him, “the zone should be closed so that no-fly can pass”. Putin promised to let all prisoners live if they lay down their arms. Shoygu said the steel mill should also be taken within three to four days.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has urged Russia to establish a humanitarian corridor for Azovstal. “There are now about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers. They should all be taken out of the factory today,” Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram. She called on “the world” to focus all efforts on the steel mill now. “That is now the key point and the key moment for the humanitarian effort,” Vereshchuk said.
Control of the port city will allow Russia to fully connect between the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and the separatist pro-Russian republics in the Donbas.