Russia claimed Friday to have captured Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol, after the last Ukrainian fighters holed up in the city’s steelworks plant surrendered.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that both the Azovstal steel plant and the city had been “fully liberated,” according to a statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry.
There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine that Mariupol was fully under Russian control.
The port city is the scene of the war’s bloodiest siege, with Russian forces having bombarded it for nearly three months. Much of Mariupol has been reduced to rubble, and more than 20,000 civilians are feared dead.
Ukrainian fighters hiding out in the city’s steelworks plant had been engaged in heavy fighting with Russian forces for several weeks. Earlier this week, however, Ukrainian officials ordered the garrison to stand down to save the fighters’ lives.
The evacuation of the last fighters from the Azovstal steel plant, their number unclear, followed the surrender of almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in recent days, according to the Russian defense minister.
The commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, key to helping defend the plant, said efforts to remove the dead from the battle scene were also underway.