Russian President Putin hails successful liberation of Mariupol; troops to be honoured with state awards
However, Putin has asked his troops not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city, but to block it so no one can escape.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared that Ukraine’s Mariupol has been ‘successfully liberated’. He hailed Russia’s “liberation” of Mariupol after Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told him Moscow controlled the Ukrainian port city apart from the giant Azovstal steel plant.
However, Putin has asked his troops not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city, but to block it so no one can escape. “Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape,” Putin said.
“Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,” Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Russia’s republic of Chechnya also involved in combat said of the steel plant.
Russian President’s orders came shortly after the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said that Russian bombardment has destroyed Mariupol’s Azovstal plant “almost completely". The plant became the last stronghold of the Ukrainian forces where the Azov Regiment and 36th Marine Brigade continued to defend the besieged city Mariupol and held back the Russian side's victory.
Without the steel plant, Russia cannot declare complete victory in Mariupol. The city's capture has both strategic and symbolic importance.
Earlier in February, Russia had acknowledged the “independence” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. Soon after that, Putin's forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The coal- and steel-producing Donbas has been the focal point of Russia’s campaign to destabilise Ukraine since 2014, when the Kremlin used proxies to set up separatist “people’s republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk.