Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov claims Russia will take full control of Mariupol steel plant housing Ukrainian fighters and civilians on Thursday
- Putin ally
Ramzan Kadyrovsaid Wednesday that Russiawill take the Mariupolsteel plant on Thursday.
- Ukrainian troops and civilians are hiding in the plant, with Russia claiming it now controls Mariupol city.
Chechen warlord and Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov said Russian forces will take the Mariupol steel plant, currently occupied by thousands of Ukrainian troops, on Thursday.
"Tomorrow, or, in fact, today, before or after lunch, Azovstal will be in complete control of the Russian forces. Everything is ready: the strategy, the warriors," he wrote on his Telegram channel late Wednesday.
During a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said that 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers are currently posted in the Azovstal steel plant, with Mariupol city council saying that 1,000 civilians are also inside.
Shoigu also told Putin that, apart from Azovstal, Russia is in total control of the city of Mariupol.
Despite Kadyrov's claim, Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Thursday that Ukrainian forces still occupied the plant.
On Thursday morning, Putin called off a planned assault on the steel plant, and instead ordered Russian troops to begin a sustained blockade "so that not even a fly comes through."
Arestovich said it was clear Putin changed the plan because he knew his forces would be unable to seize the plant.
"They physically cannot take Azovstal, they have understood this, they have taken huge losses there. Our defenders continue to hold it," Arestovich said, per Reuters.
As of this article's publication, there is no evidence suggesting that Ukrainian forces are not currently still situated inside Azovstal.
In a Telegram post Thursday, Iryna Vereshchuk,
Russia has in recent weeks refocused its attacks in Ukraine to center on the Donbas region, in the east of the country.
Since 2014, the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, known collectively as the Donbas, have been controlled by pro-Kremlin factions. Writing on Telegram, Kadyrov said Russia was liberating the region's residents.
"For the West and Europe it's unpleasant news but for those normal people who want to live in peace, it's very good news indeed. The torturing of people in Donetsk and Luhansk will stop, and so will the killing of peaceful population in Ukraine," he wrote.
"So I am telling you, and you didn't believe me. You should have surrendered sooner."
The Russian government has also framed the new assault on the Donbas, which began this week, as a liberation mission for those living there.
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