Russia said on Friday that its troops had “completely liberated” the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – the final capture of Ukrainian resistance in the Russian-occupied southern city.
CNN could not independently verify that all Ukrainian troops had left the plant.
Ukraine has not yet confirmed Russia’s claims, which, if true, could signal a symbolic military victory for Moscow.
Here is what you need to know:
Siege of Mariupol: The port city of strategic importance was one of the first cities to come under Russian attack since the Moscow invasion began on February 24. In early March, it was surrounded by Russian forces, with civilians facing severe shortages of food and water – and a series of bombings struck a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians had taken refuge.
Plant: In mid-April, most of the last Ukrainian guards struggled to retreat Russian troops from the Azovstal steel plant – which became a shelter for 1,000 civilians, some of whom were wounded without medical help.
In late April, Russia claimed that Mariupolin had achieved “liberation” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky denied it, saying that soldiers in the city were still resisting.
Eviction attempts: The expulsion of civilians from Azovstale began on May 1st. On May 16, the Ukrainian army announced that its troops had completed their “war mission” at the steel plant, and hundreds of soldiers were evacuated from the facility.
Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the plant were taken to a pre-test detention center, while the seriously injured were receiving medical treatment, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Ukraine said it expects the transfer of Russian prisoners of war for severely wounded soldiers.
Ground condition: If Russia’s claim on Friday is true, it means that the entire city of Mariupol has fallen under Russian control after nearly three months of brutal fighting.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said at the plant that “the last group of 531 militants had surrendered.” Earlier, the Ukrainian commander of the Azov regiment issued an order for the soldiers to “protect their lives and health … and stop the security”. The city. ”
Videos posted online appear to show the remaining Azov warplanes leaving the steel plant. CNN cannot independently verify the number of fighters remaining at the plant.
Russian profit: If the fall of the Azovstal steel plant is confirmed, it indicates that Russian forces are in complete control of Mariupol, paving the way for the establishment of a land corridor between Russia and the annexed territory of Crimea.
The symbolic victory would secure a major port for Russia in the Sea of Azov and free Russian troops to fight on the front lines of the war in the Donbass region.
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