Conflicts & War

Russia announces “full liberation” of steel works in Mariupol

Moscow, May 20 (EFE).- The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that the last of the Ukrainian troops holed up at the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, Ukraine, have surrendered.

“Today, May 20, the last group of 531 fighters gave themselves up,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said, bringing to 2,439 the total number of troops who have surrendered since Monday.

The sprawling industrial complex, which covers 11 sq km (4.25 sq mi), was the last redoubt of Ukrainian government forces in the southeastern port city on the Sea of Azov.

Several hundred civilians were evacuated from Azovstal earlier in operations organized by the United Nations and the International Red Cross before the combatants began to surrender.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin of “the end of the operation and the complete liberation of the industrial complex and the city of Mariupol,” Konashenkov said.

“The underground installations of the factory, where the fighters were hiding, have come under complete control of Russian forces,” the general added.

Konashenkov did not reveal the destination of the fighters who surrendered Friday.

Some among the previous contingents were taken to Russia, while others were handed over to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of the two mainly ethnic-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine whose independence Moscow recognized days before launching its invasion of the neighboring country on Feb. 24.

“Ukraine needs its heroes alive,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier this week in explaining his decision to order the troops at Azovstal to give up.

The DPR has called for the demolition of the Soviet-era Azovstal complex, currently owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, reputedly the wealthiest man in Ukraine. EFE mos/dr

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