2,000 Ukrainian men, women, children, and soldiers remain trapped within the steelworks while Putin gives the order to not let anyone escape

The Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine, was sealed off by order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, leaving thousands of Ukrainians trapped inside and waiting to starve to death. With this last bastion of the city’s defense sealed off, Putin is declaring Mariupol “liberated” [read: captured.]

Azovstal Steelworks

The order was given to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after Shoigu informed him that around 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were holed up at Azovstal steelworks, and that the city was otherwise under their control.

From The Daily Mail:

“I consider the proposed storming of the industrial zone unnecessary,” Putin told Shoigu in a televised meeting at the Kremlin. “I order you to cancel it.”

After Shoigu told him Moscow controlled the city – apart from the Azovstal steel plant – Putin hailed the “successful liberation” of Mariupol.

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He said his decision not to storm the steelworks was motivated by the desire to safeguard the lives of Russian soldiers.

“There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities,” he said. “Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot not pass through.” Shoigu confirmed the plant was “securely blocked.”

This move captures the important port city in a way which reduces Russian casualties, which also serves a symbolic purpose of moving towards their declared May 9th Victory Day with a successful and (on their side) relatively bloodless strategic victory.

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For Ukraine, however, this is yet another tragedy.

With thousands of Ukrainains trapped inside and waiting to starve to death in the steelworks of a razed city, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister is desperate to get them out.

“Hundreds of civilians, children, injured Ukrainian defenders are trapped in plant’s shelters. They have almost no food, water, essential medicine.”

“An urgent humanitarian corridor is needed from the Azovstal plant with guarantees people will be safe.”

Whether Russia will allow a humanitarian corridor likely depends on how many concessions Ukraine is willing to give, and seeing a stark lack of concessions in the past from President Zelenskyy and his administration, the chances for those trapped seem bleak.

While Mariupol has been declared “liberated” already, it is worth noting that without the capture of the plant, Ukraine is still able to assert that the city has not completely fallen, robbing Russia of their ability to declare a total victory over the region.

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