Russia claims grim victory over devastated city of Mariupol


POKROVSK, Ukraine (AP) — It will be the biggest win in history. War Russia, along with Ukraine, claimed to have captured Mariupol after a nearly three-month siege that turned much of its strategic port city into smoking ruins. More than 20,000 civilian deaths feared.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has reported to President Vladimir Putin the complete liberation of Ukrainian resistance forces’ last stronghold in Mariupol and the city-wide Azovstal steel mills, spokeswoman Igor Konashenkov said Friday.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the defense ministry as saying that a total of 2,439 Ukrainian soldiers trapped in the steel mill had surrendered since Monday, including more than 500 since Friday.

When they surrendered, the army was taken prisoner by the Russians, and at least some were taken to their former prisons. The rest were reported to have been hospitalized.

The defense of the ironworks was led by the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, which took control of a far-right organization controlled by the Kremlin in an effort to attempt an invasion into a fight against Nazi influence in Ukraine. Russia said commander Azov was driven out of the factory in an armored car.

Russian authorities have investigated some of the ironworks’ advocates for war crimes and threatened to bring them to trial, branding them as “Nazis” and criminals. It aroused international fears about their fate.

The 11 sq km (4 sq mi) steel mill was the site of several weeks of fierce battles. The shrinking thirteen fighters were holding out, and they launched Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire before the Russian government ordered them to give up their factory defenses and save themselves.

Mariupol’s full takeover gives Putin a much-needed victory in the war he started on February 24. The clash was the Kremlin’s lightning conquest, but instead failed to retake the capital of Kyiv and was withdrawn. The decline of troops to refocus on eastern Ukraine and the sinking of the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Military analysts said the fall of Mariupol was mostly symbolic at this point. Because the city was already under effective control of Moscow, and most of the Russian troops bound by battle there had already left.

In a different situation on Friday, the West moved to provide billions of dollars more to Ukraine, and fierce fighting broke out in Donbas, an industrial center in eastern Ukraine that Putin is trying to take over.

Ukrainian authorities say Russian troops have hit schools, among other locations, as they bombard major highways and continue their attacks on major cities in the Luhansk region. Luhansk is part of Donbas.

The Kremlin tried to take control of Mariupol in an attempt to complete the land corridor between Russia and Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free the army to participate in the bigger battle for Donbas. The loss of the city also deprives Ukraine of an important port.

Mariupol endured some of the worst pain It has become a symbol of war and a symbol of global resistance. About 100,000 people remained from the pre-war population of 450,000, and many were trapped without food, water, heat or electricity. Rows of buildings were shattered or hollowed out by merciless artillery fire.

Obstetrics and gynecology hospital attacked The fatal Russian airstrike on March 9 created a horrific image of pregnant women evacuated. A week later, a bomb exploded at a theater where civilians had been evacuated, killing about 300 people, it is reported. The actual death toll could be close to 600..

Satellite imagery from April showed what appears to be a large tomb just outside Mariupol. There, local officials accused Russia of covering up the massacre by burying up to 9,000 civilians.

Hundreds of civilians were evacuated from factories during the humanitarian armistice earlier this month, speaking of fears of constant bombardment, damp conditions underground and fears of not being able to survive.

As the end drew near in Azovstal, the wives of the warriors who were holding out at the iron mill said they were afraid of their final contact with their husbands.

Marine Corps wife Olga Boiko wiped away tears Thursday, saying her husband had written her a letter. “hello. We surrender. I don’t know when or when I will be contacted. I Love You. kiss goodbye.”

Natalia Zaritskaya, the wife of another warrior from Azovstal, based on messages she had seen over the past two days: “Right now they are on their way from Hell to Hell. Every part of this path is fatal.”

She said two days ago, her husband reported that of the 32 soldiers he served with, only eight survived, most of them seriously injured.

Russia described the troops leaving the steel mill as a massive surrender, while Ukraine called it mission accomplished. They said the fighters had tied up Moscow’s forces and thwarted their attempts to take control of the east.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described Mariupol’s defenses as “the thermophile of the 21st century”. This refers to one of the most glorious defeats in history, when 300 Spartans defeated a much larger Persian army in 480 BC. before finally giving in.

Another development Friday:

— Zelenskyy said Russia must pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys. He urged Ukrainian partners to confiscate Russian funds and property under their jurisdiction and use them to create funds to compensate those affected.

“Russia will feel the true weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell that it has fired at us,” he said in a nightly video speech.

— The G7 major economies and global financial institutions have agreed to provide more money to strengthen Ukraine’s finances, bringing the total to $19.8 billion. In the United States, President Joe Biden is expected to sign a $40 billion military and economic assistance package to Ukraine and its allies.

— Russia will shut off natural gas to Finland on Saturday, days after Finland applied for NATO membership, Finland’s state-owned energy company said. Finland rejected Moscow’s request to pay gas in rubles. This cutoff is not expected to have an immediate impact. According to Finnish broadcaster YLE, natural gas will only account for 6% of Finland’s total energy consumption in 2020.

— A Russian soldier arrested for killing a civilian awaits his fate in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial. Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, could face life in prison.

— Russian lawmakers have proposed a bill to lower the age limit for Russians to apply for military service to 40. Currently, all Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27 are required to complete one year of military service, but many receive university deferrals and other waivers.

___

McQuillan reported from Lviv. Stashevskyi reported from Kyiv. Contributed by Associated Press Correspondents Yuras Karmanau (Lviv), Andrea Rosa (Kharkiv), and Jamie Keaten (AP), as well as AP staff around the world.

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