Russian forces have fully captured the key Donbass Black Sea port-city of Mariupol, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. However, more than 2,000 militants, loyal to Kiev, still remain entrenched at the Azovstal steel plant in the city, he added.
President Vladimir Putin has called Shoigu’s plan of storming the area “inadvisable” and instead ordered him to “safely block” the area while extending to those inside another offer to lay down their arms. The last hold outs are cut off from supplies.
When Mariupol was encircled in early March, some 8,100 Ukrainian soldiers, foreign mercenaries, and nationalist militants – including members of the notorious Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion – 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. It has been under siege for weeks.