Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday that Mariupol had been liberated from Ukrainian forces, and that order can now be restored in the city. Shoigu, however, stressed that “remaining radicals” are still besieged at the Azovstal steel plant.
Mariupol resident are finally anle to move freely along the streets and stop hiding from shelling by Ukrainian neo-Nazis, as the situation in the city has returned to normal, Major General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry, said during a Friday briefing.
“Humanitarian aid is being delivered: food, water and basic necessities. The authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic are organising the clearing of the streets from rubble and the removal of the destroyed Ukrainian military equipment”, said Konashenkov.
Konashenkov stated that the remaining Azov Nazis, along with foreign mercenaries from the United States and Europe, have been blockaded at the Azovstal steel plant.
“The Nazis ignore our demands to release the women and children allegedly stuck with them…”, he said, adding that the Azov fighters and the Kiev regime receive info on the procedure for the exit of civilians, if there are any, from the territory of Azovstal for subsequent evacuation hourly.
According to the Major General, the fact that the Azov neo-Nazis and foreign mercs have taken civilians hostage proves that they are not “defenders”, but rather “terrorists”.
In this respect, forced attempts by the speaker of the US State Department to lie about neo-Nazis retaining control over Mariupol is fake news and complicity in terrorism at the state level, the Defence Ministry’s spokesman said.
“The State Department habitually misinforms its own citizens, and everyone else,” Konashenkov stressed, referring to a claim by State Department spokesman Ned Price, who told reporters that Ukrainian forces still hold ground in Mariupol and Moscow’s statements about the city’s liberation is disinformation.
Washington is interested in Ukraine, residents of Mariupol and other cities only when it comes to benefitting from weapons supplies to Ukraine and fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian”, he added.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has previously said that there was evidence that there were people at Azovstal not affiliated with the Ukrainian forces.
“As for the situation around Azovstal, the Kiev regime [repeatedly] stated that the Russian side did not allow civilians to leave Azovstal. Well, this is a lie, this is not true. The Russian side… has repeatedly talked about how people who want to leave the territory of Azovstal can do it,” Zakharova told the Rossiya 24 broadcaster on Friday.
The diplomat added that the Kiev regime, together with Washington, needs to “pretend that there is no possibility for the civilian population to leave.”
“They are intimidating people who are inside Azovstal, they are doing everything so that people who are at Azovstal continue to be there. For them, this is a continuation of the ‘human shield’ policy,” Zakharova concluded.
On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Mariupol had come under the control of the Russian armed forces, but there are still militants on the territory of the Azovstal steel plant.
“Mariupol was liberated by the Russian armed forces and the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The remnants of the nationalist formations took refuge in the industrial zone of the Azovstal plant,” Shoigu said, adding that over 2,000 militants are blocked at the plant, and almost 1,500 have already surrendered.
“As for those who are hiding at the Azovstal plant, they are thoroughly blocked there and around the entire perimeter, it will take us about three to four days to complete this work on Azovstal,” Shoigu added.
Putin, in turn, called the assault on Azovstal pointless and ordered it to be canceled. He explained that it is necessary to think about saving the lives of Russian soldiers and officers, and ordered the Azovstal zone to be blocked.
At the time the Donetsk People’s Repulic declared its independence from Kiev in 2014, Mariupol was the second-largest city of the republic after Donetsk. It was taken by Kiev’s forces back that same year. Since the beginning of the special operation in February, the Russian troops and Donbass militias have been pushing Ukrainian forces from the city. During the liberation of Mariupol, witnesses reported numerous crimes committed by the Ukrainian militants in the city, including taking hostages and using civilians as human shields.