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Russia now claims Mariupol, Ukraine is entirely under its control following the surrender of Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel plant, according to a senior official in the Russian government.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Russia’s military saw the “complete liberation” of the Ukrainian port city, which has been at the center of the Ukraine-Russia War for several weeks. It is the tenth-largest city in the country, and the second-largest in the Donetsk region, where most of the fighting has taken place.
Mariupol also serves a strategic function as it is located on the Sea of Azov, which would provide Russia’s homeland a direct route to its military forces in Crimea. Its fall, which could not be independently verified, would undoubtedly be Russia’s biggest victory in the current conflict.
Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti announced the city fell with the surrender of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters, a figure much larger than previously reported.
OVER 3,700 CIVILIANS HAVE BEEN KILLED IN UKRAINE SINCE RUSSIA’S INVASION BEGAN: UN
Ukrainian forces have remained in the basement of a steel mill for several weeks. Many of the troops were suffering severe injuries, with some even missing limbs, that a skeleton medical crew was unable to properly treat.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced several hundred Ukrainian troops and civilians were evacuated from the plant to ensure their safety and survival.
REMAINING UKRAINIAN SOLDIERS EVACUATED FROM MARIUPOL STEEL PLANT: ZELENSKYY
During an address on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said any occupation of Ukrainian cities by Russian forces would be “temporary.”
“Kherson, Melitopol, Berdyansk, Enerhodar, Mariupol and all of our cities and communities that are under occupation – under temporary occupation – should know that Ukraine will return,” he said.
During his address Friday, the Ukrainian president continued to thank Ukrainian fighters and civilians who oppose the occupation of Ukraine.
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“I want to thank our people who do not stop fighting the occupation,” Zelenskyy said during his nightly address on Friday. “And especially those who are now in the territory that is temporarily under the control of Russia, its army. In particular, the rescuers in Enerhodar who protested today deserve support from all of us. Thank you.”
“Each and everyone must show that the occupiers have no right to decide anything on our land. This is an important component of our victory,” he added.
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One of Zelenskyy’s advisers, Mykhailo Podolyak, previously compared the battle of Mariupol to the battle of Thermopylae, when Persian forces invaded Greece and defeated a group of 300 Spartans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.