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Putin cancels plan to storm Azovstal plant in Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to cancel plans to storm the Azovstal plant in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, saying he wants it to continue to be securely blockaded instead.

The last Ukrainian fighters are sheltering in the city’s huge steel plant.

Putin gave the order to seal off the plant in a conversation with Sergei Shoigu, his defence minister, that was broadcast.

He congratulated him on a successful operation in Mariupol after Shoigu claimed that the city had come under the control of Russian forces.

Putin said there was “no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities”.

Instead, he called for his forces to “block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape,” during a televised meeting.

Shoigu had previously told Putin that more than 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were still in the plant, which has an extensive underground bunker. The fighters there – made of the Azov Battalion, which has links to the far-right, and Ukrainian marines – have been hailed by President Zelensky for holding out for weeks against a Russian onslaught.

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