Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his troops not to storm the Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainian fighters are resisting invaders.
Instead, Mr. Putin used televised remarks to call for a blockade of the Azovstal plant so that “not even a fly can escape” and congratulated his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, for taking control of the southeastern city despite the holdouts, according to the BBC.
Mr. Putin’s forces have devastated Mariupol, and it has been difficult for civilians to escape safely. Volodymyr Zeleskyy, the Ukrainian President, says that the Russian invasion has claimed the lives of tens to thousands of Ukrainians.
Fierce resistance at the steel plant has come to symbolize Ukrainian resolve against Russian forces who’ve stumbled in their aims and are bombarding the eastern part of Ukraine.
British intelligence officials indicated that Mr. Putin might be motivated by the May 9 Victory Day celebrations. These commemorate the end to World War II.
“This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations in the run-up to this date,” the U.K. Ministry of Defence tweeted.
SEE ALSO Mariupol is on the brink, as Russians look for breakthrough
According to the ministry Russian forces are moving towards Kramatorsk from the eastern Donbas area, where they have been staging.
The Russians are providing air support to its offensive in the east “to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defense capabilities,” the ministry said.