Russia claims forces have successfully captured Ukrainian city of Mariupol
Moscow: Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that the country’s forces have fully captured Ukraine’s key Black Sea port-city of Mariupol, the media reported.
However, more than 2,000 Ukrainian militants still remain entrenched at the Azovstal steel plant in the city, RT News reported citing Shoigu as saying.
When Mariupol was encircled in early March, some 8,100 Ukrainian soldiers, foreign mercenaries remained inside, according to the Minister’s estimates.
More than 1,400 militants have laid down their arms, Shoigu said, adding that over 142,000 civilians have also been evacuated from the city that has been under siege for weeks.
President Putin has called Shoigu’s plan of storming the Azovstal plant “inadvisable” and ordered to “safely block” the area instead while extending to those inside another offer to lay down their arms, the RT report said.
Russia has twice sought to establish a humanitarian corridor for those willing to leave the plant in recent days, but both attempts failed, it added.
Shoigu said that the Russian forces had announced ceasefires and opened humanitarian corridors for two hours a day for the past two days on Putin’s orders to allow those inside the Azovstal plant to leave.
“We have made some 90 buses and 25 ambulances ready for them,” Shoigu said, adding that cameras have been mounted in the area to monitor the situation.
“No one has left the Azovstal (plant),” he said, adding that some 100 civilians from other areas seized this opportunity to evacuate.
Sergey Volyna, the commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marines Brigade, which is holed up at the plant, claimed that “hundreds” of civilians were trapped in the facility.