Russia said on Friday its troops had “completely liberated” the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol – the final capture of Ukrainian resistance in the Russian-occupied southern city.
CNN could not independently verify that all Ukrainian troops had left the factory.
Ukraine has yet to confirm Russia’s claims, which, if true, could signal a symbolic military victory for Moscow.
Here’s what you need to know:
Siege of Mariupol: The strategically important port city was one of the first cities to be attacked by Russia since the invasion of Moscow began on February 24. In early March it was surrounded by Russian forces, with civilians facing severe food and water shortages – and a series of bombardments hit a maternity ward and a theater where civilians had taken refuge.
Plant: In mid-April, most of the last Ukrainian guards struggled to drive Russian troops back from the Azovstal steelworks – which became a haven for 1,000 civilians, some of whom were injured without medical help.
In late April, Russia claimed Mariupolin had secured “liberation” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Jelensky denied this, saying the town’s soldiers were still resisting.
Eviction attempts: The eviction of civilians from Azovstale began on May 1. On May 16, the Ukrainian military announced that its troops had completed their “war mission” at the steelworks and hundreds of soldiers were evacuated from the installation.
Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the factory were taken to a pre-test detention center, while the seriously injured received medical treatment, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Ukraine has said it expects the transfer of Russian prisoners of war for seriously injured soldiers.
Ground condition: If Russia’s claim on Friday is true, it means the entire city of Mariupol has fallen under Russian control after nearly three months of brutal fighting.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told the factory that “the last group of 531 militants had surrendered”. Previously, the Ukrainian commander of the Azov regiment had ordered the soldiers to “protect their life and health…and stop security”. The city. ”
Videos posted online appear to show the remaining Azov warplanes leaving the steel mill. CNN cannot independently verify the number of fighters remaining at the factory.
Russian profit: If the fall of the Azovstal steel plant is confirmed, it indicates that Russian forces have full control of Mariupol, paving the way for the establishment of a land corridor between Russia and the annexed territory of Crimea.
The symbolic victory would secure a major port for Russia in the Sea of Azov and free up Russian troops to fight on the front lines of the war in the Donbass region.