Russia and Ukraine made disputed claims regarding the hotly contested city of Mariupol, as well as a major steel plant in the city. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol Thursday, saying “the completion of combat work to liberate Mariupol is a success.”
“Today, the minister [of defense] reported that there is an opportunity to start restoring peaceful life, to bring back the residents, what they will do now,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov added Thursday. His comments are included in the video above.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko responded to Putin’s claim of victory shortly after, saying the city was actually still in Ukrainian hands. His comments are also included in the video above.
“The city was, is, and remains Ukrainian today. Because today, our brave warriors, our heroes, are defending our city as much as possible,” Boychenko said. “It doesn’t matter what statements are made there. The city is and will be Ukrainian.”
The dispute over whether or not Russia has actually taken over Mariupol likely has to do with President Putin’s decision to not storm the Azovstal steel plant. It has served as somewhat of a last stand for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol. Instead of trying to take over the plant, Putin ordered his troops to “block off this industrial area so that not even a fly comes through.”
“I consider the proposed storming of the industrial area pointless,” Putin said at a meeting with his defense minister Thursday. A clip from the meeting is included in the video above. “This is the case when we must think…about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers. There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities.”
That comment from Putin also received pushback from Ukraine. Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Putin’s order is a sign that Russia realizes it can’t take over the steel plant, and therefore the city as a while.
“Our defenders continue to hold it,” Arestovich said in reference to the steel plant. “The refusal [by the Russian army to attack Azovstal] can still be explained by the fact that they moved part of their troops to the north to strengthen their groups there, trying to carry out the primary political task. This task is to reach the administrative borders of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.”