Russia on Friday announced its troops had “completely liberated” the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – the last base of the Ukrainian resistance in the southern Russian-occupied city.
CNN was unable to independently verify that all Ukrainian troops have left the steel plant.
Ukraine has yet to confirm Russia’s claim that, if true, would mark a symbolic military victory for Moscow.
Here’s what you need to know:
Siege of Mariupol: This strategically important port city was one of the first to be attacked by Russia after the invasion of Moscow began on 24 February. By early March, it was besieged by forces. Russia, leaving residents facing food and water shortages – and constant bombardment. attacked a maternity hospital and a theater where civilians were sheltering.
Plant: By mid-April, most of Ukraine’s defenders were finally fighting to hold back Russian forces from the Azovstal steel plant, which has also become a shelter for around 1,000 civilians, including some of the dead. Severely injured trapped without medical attention.
In late April, Russia announced it had achieved the “liberation” of Mariupol – something Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied, saying soldiers were still resisting in the city.
Evacuation attempt: The evacuation of civilians from Azovstal began on May 1. On May 16, the Ukrainian military said its forces had completed a “combat mission” at the steel plant, with hundreds of soldiers deployed. evacuate the facility.
Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the factory were taken to a pre-trial detention center, while those seriously injured were receiving medical treatment, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Ukraine said it expected to conduct an exchange of Russian prisoners of war for seriously wounded soldiers.
Situation on the ground: If true, Friday’s Russian statement would show that the entire city of Mariupol has fallen under Russian control after nearly three months of brutal fighting.
A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry announced that “the last group of 531 fighters have surrendered” in the factory. Earlier, the commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment ordered the soldiers to preserve their “life and health … and stop defending the city.”
Videos posted online appear to show the remaining Azov warriors walking out of the steel mill. CNN was unable to independently verify the number of fighters remaining in the plant.
Russia obtained: If confirmed, the collapse of the Azovstal steel plant would mean that Russian forces are taking full control of Mariupol, paving the way for them to establish a land corridor between Russia and the annexed territory of Crimea.
The symbolic victory would also secure an important port on the Sea of Azov for Russia and free up Russian troops fighting on the front lines of the war in the Donbas region.