Weeks ago Russian forces had already captured and besieged much of the southeast Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which began a process of the majority of civilians emptying out – though there could still be tens of thousands remaining. Within the past days an estimated couple thousand Azov fighters have been surrounded and holed up at the large, cavernous Azovstal steel plant, reportedly including some civilians, resulting in a standoff situation where those inside are fast running out of supplies.
Previously it was thought that Russian troops were preparing to storm the sprawling complex, but instead on Thursday President Vladimir Putin indicated to his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that this course of action must be scrapped and instead the plant should be completely sealed off.
Putin further declared Mariupol, which prior to the invasion had a population of about 450,000, is now “liberated” – and congratulated the defense chief on the military “success” – at a moment Russia has launched a broader major offensive to take the whole of Donbas…
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