Thursday 26 May 2022
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Mariupol ‘freed’, says Putin; Ukrainians cornered into last stronghold

Without the steel plant, Russia could not have declared complete victory in Mariupol; the city's capture has both strategic and symbolic importance

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President of Russia on 21 April declared that his forces have “successfully liberated” Mariupol in Ukraine. The Russian president, nevertheless, asked his troops not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city, but to block it so no one can escape.

Interestingly, while the Western media has been creating the impression since February-end that Russia and Ukraine are equally matched militarily in the war, they acknowledged this piece of information, agreeing that Ukrainians are losing.

President Putin hailed Russia’s “liberation” of Mariupol after his minister said that Moscow was now controlling the city apart from the Azovstal steel plant where Ukrainian soldiers remain cornered. “Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape,” Putin said.

On 19 April, Russia’s Minister Sergei Shoigu had said their forces were “methodically carrying out” plans to “liberate” two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. He added on Thursday that the steel plant was “securely blocked”.

Without the steel plant, Russia cannot declare complete victory in Mariupol. The city’s capture has both strategic and symbolic importance. The besieged city has been the site of great suffering since the began in February.

Earlier in February, Russia had proclaimed that Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine were “independent”. Soon after that, Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

The coal- and steel-producing Donbas has been the focal point of Russia’s campaign to destabilise Ukraine since 2014, when the Kremlin used proxies to set up separatist “people’s republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk.

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