Russia declares complete control of Mariupol

On May 20, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the last Ukrainian soldiers had come out of the Azovstal steel plant. He told President Vladimir Putin that both Mariupol and the steel mill were completely liberated.

“The underground facilities of the factory, where the fighters hide, are under the complete control of the Russian armed forces.” statement of the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

Russia declares complete control of Mariupol - 1

The Russian Ministry of Defense claims control of the Azovstal steel plant. (Photo: Reuters)

“The last group of 531 soldiers surrendered today,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that a total of 2,439 soldiers of the Azov battalion and the Ukrainian army had laid down their weapons since May 16.

Igor Konashenkov also said that the Azov battalion commander was evacuated by armored vehicles to ensure safety.

The Azovstal Steel Plant is considered Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol. Some 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians sheltered inside the factory’s fortified tunnels for weeks under siege by Russian and separatist forces.

Mariupol is one of the hot spots on the battlefield, where the two sides have been in a tug-of-war for weeks. Russia announced control of the strategic city at the end of April, blockading enemy troops inside the giant steel factory.

Earlier this week, Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement to remove Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant. While Kiev calls this operation “evacuation”, Moscow considers it “surrender”. The Kremlin insists that Ukraine’s prisoners of war will be treated according to international practice.

Ukraine ordered the shutdown of the garrison at the Azovsta steel plant. A few hours before Russia’s announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the force returning here received a message that they could exit the factory.

Kiev calls the plant’s defenders heroes, saying their tenacious stance helped bring down Russian forces and allowed Ukraine to succeed elsewhere on the battlefield.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the Ukrainian air force tried to resupply Mariupol but was repelled and suffered great losses.

On May 20, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also said that Moscow is close to complete control of the Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine. The statement was made at a meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry broadcast on Russian television, with Mr Shoigu saying control of Lugansk was “almost” completed.

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