Moscow: Russian authorities have said that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian troops holed up at a giant steelworks in Mariupol have surrendered, after the collapse of their dogged defence of a site that has become a symbol of their country’s resistance, BBC reported on Wednesday.
Ukraine ordered the fighters to save their lives adding that their mission to tie up Russian forces was now complete. However, it has not called the column of soldiers walking out of the plant a surrender.
Reports said that the fighters face an uncertain fate, with Ukraine saying that they hope to get them back through a prisoner swap but Russia has said that it will try at least some of them for war crimes.
It is not clear how many fighters remain inside the stronghold, which was Ukraine’s last in the strategic port city and which is now largely reduced to rubble.
Both the sides are trying to shape a narrative and extract propaganda victories from what has been one of the most important battles of the war.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that 959 Ukrainian troops had now left the Avozstal plant since they started coming out on Monday, after initially claiming that around 2,000 fighters were holed up in the mill’s sprawling network of tunnels and bunkers.
The fall of the Avozstal plant will give concrete shape to Russian plans of capturing the port city of Mariupol which is likely to boost Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position for whom many of his plans in the war have gone awry.
Apart from this gaining full control of Mariupol would also allow Russia to deploy forces elsewhere in the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland that the Kremlin is now bent on capturing.