Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the biggest fight of the Ukrainian War on Thursday, declaring the port of Mariupol “freed” after almost two months of siege, despite hundreds of defenders still standing inside a giant steel plant.
During a television meeting with his defense minister inside the Kremlin, Putin said there was no need for a showdown with the last defenders who were stranded after surviving almost two months of the siege of Russia.
“I think the plan to assault the industrial zone is useless,” he told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at a television meeting in the Kremlin. “I command you to call it off.
“It’s not necessary to get into these catacombs and crawl underground through those industrial facilities,” he said.
“Block this industrial area so no fly will get through.”
Shoigu believes that 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers remained inside the factory. Putin asked them to lay down their weapons and give themselves up, saying that Russia would treat them with respect.
It was asked to comment on Russia’s decision to block the steel plant instead of storming it, The spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine said the movement was indicative of Putin’s “schizophrenic tendencies” and gave no other answer.
Putin’s statement of victory allows him to claim his first grand prize since his forces were ousted from northern Ukraine last month after failing to capture the capital, Kyiv.