It is still possible to rescue Ukrainian fighters trapped in Mariupol, but Kiev will need foreign help to do so, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday. Meanwhile, Russia declared the city to be completely cleared of troops loyal to Kiev, with only a few die-hards left at the Azovstal factory complex.
“There is a military way” to unblock Mariupol, Zelensky told local media during a press conference with the prime ministers of Spain and Denmark in Kiev.
“We need to prepare for it. We are preparing to be strong, but here we need the help of our partners. It’s difficult, by ourselves,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that the Azov Sea port is fully in the hands of Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic troops, with the exception of a surrounded group holed up at the Azovstal steel plant. Shoigu estimated their number to be around 2,000.
Some 8,100 Ukrainian troops, militants and mercenaries were in Mariupol when it was surrounded last month, the defense minister said, and 1,478 of them have surrendered.