Vladimir Putin has claimed Russian “success” in the flattened Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, but despite this it is reported that he ordered his forces not to storm the site where the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance is holding out.
The Kremlin’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that the sprawling Azovstal steel plant was “securely blocked” while the rest of the strategically vital city was “liberated.”
Putin said that rather than risk Russian soldiers’ lives by launching a final ground assault, they should instead blockade the stronghold “so that not even a fly comes through.”
Ukrainian forces have held out under weeks of heavy bombardment that have decimated much of Mariupol and prompted international condemnation of Moscow’s tactics.
The fate of Mariupol and the broader Russian offensive in the east has prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to again call again for urgent supplies of weapons from his country’s allies — an appeal the U.S. looks set to meet, with President Joe Biden scheduled to announce a new $800 million military aid package in remarks Thursday morning.