Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has ordered his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to cancel the assault by Russian troops on the industrial zone near the Azovstal plant in the city of Mariupol in the Donetsk Oblast.
In a video of a meeting between Putin and Shoigu broadcast on Russian TV channels, Putin said it was “inexpedient” to launch a ground assault on the plant.
The sprawling steelworks is the last holdout in the city for the remaining Azov Regiment, National Guard troops, marines, Border Guards and police defending the city. At least 1,000 civilians, mostly women with children, the elderly and families of Ukrainian servicemen, have taken refuge in the steel plant’s underground shelters.
"I consider the likely assault on the Azovstal industrial zone inexpedient,” Putin said. “I order that it be cancelled. We should not go into the catacombs, we should block the industrial zone in Azovstal so that a fly can't get through." Putin said during a meeting with Shoigu, which was broadcast on Russian TV channels.
Although fighting in the city is still raging, the Russian leader also commended Shoigu for the successful completion of combat operations in Mariupol.
Putin also said that all those who surrendered in the city would be allowed to live.
On the evening of April 18 Mariupol City Council said that Russian forces were attacking Azovstal steelworks with heavy bombs. Azov fighters say the plant is virtually destroyed.
A humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave Mariupol failed to open on April 20, as it was disrupted by Russian shelling.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk once again decried the situation on her Telegram channel, urging global leaders and community to assist in ensuring a corridor for 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded Ukrainian soildiers.
Mariupol has been besieged by the Russians since March 1, with 95% of the buildings destroyed by enemy shelling. There is no water, electricity, heating or communications in the city. Up to 22,000 civilians are reported to have been killed as a result of the Russian attack on the city.
Reports from the city say dead people who have no one to take care of them are buried in mass graves by utility service workers. Graves have also appeared in courtyards and on city streets. Ukrainian sources say that hide the traces of their crimes against civilians, the Russians have brought to Mariupol at least 13 mobile crematoria, in which they dispose of the bodies of dead civilians that they collect in the city.