Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to claim victory in the strategic port of Mariupol on Thursday, even as he ordered his troops not to storm the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the war’s iconic battleground.

Russian troops have besieged the southeastern city since the early days of the conflict and largely pulverized it — and top officials have repeatedly indicated it was about to fall, but Ukrainian forces stubbornly held on. In recent weeks, they holed up in a sprawling steel plant, and Russian forces pounded the industrial site and repeatedly issued ultimatums ordering the defenders to surrender.

Damaged Ukrainian army military vehicles with a Ukrainian national flag, are seen at the partly destroyed Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine. On Thursday, April 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces not to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Putin said that, for now, he would not risk sending troops into the warren of tunnels under the giant Azovstal plant, instead preferring to isolate the holdouts who have captivated the world’s attention “so that not even a fly comes through.” His defense minster said the plant was blocked off, while giving yet another prediction that the site could be taken in days.



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