Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that the country's fighters continue to defend Mariupol (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DefenceU)
Russia has claimed that it has "liberated" the commercial seaport in Mariupol from Ukrainian forces and is on the verge of controlling the strategically important industrial city in the south-east of Ukraine.
Major General Igor Konashenkov, a representative of the Russian Ministry of Defence, said that the sea trade port has been completely liberated from the "militants of the Azov formation" and those remaining in the city are left with no opportunity to escape.
"All the hostages held by the Nazis on ships in the port, including foreign ones, have been released," Konashenkov said during his daily media briefing.
He also said that as many as 1,026 Ukrainian servicemen of the 36th Marine Brigade have voluntarily laid down their arms and surrendered in the city as a result of a successful offensive by the Russian Armed Forces and Donetsk People's Republic militia units.
"The remnants of the units of the Ukrainian troops and the Nazis of Azov located in the city are blocked and deprived of the opportunity to escape from the encirclement," Konashenkov added.
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On the other hand, Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that the country's fighters continue to defend Mariupol.
"They are still fighting and holding back their very large forces – more than 10 thousand Russian soldiers are near Mariupol," said Reznikov.
A bustling hub for trade till a few months ago, Mariupol has been devastated over the past few weeks, facing a massive humanitarian catastrophe as fierce fighting continues between the Russian and Ukrainian forces.
"Mariupol is located 10 km from the areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists and its geographic position makes it strategically important, as taking the city would enable the creation of a land corridor from Luhansk to Donetsk and down to Crimea. For Moscow, the land corridor would secure control of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov," notes Janes, the global agency for open-source defence intelligence.
In its latest assessment on Wednesday, Washington-based American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that the Russian forces will likely capture Mariupol in the coming week.
"Russian claims of a mass Ukrainian surrender in Mariupol are likely false, but Russian forces forced Ukrainian troops to abandon the Ilyich metal plant in northern Mariupol on April 13, further constricting the two remaining pockets of Ukrainian defenders. Russian forces continued to conduct small-scale limited offensive operations on both the Izyum and Severodonetsk axes and have not yet begun a broader offensive campaign," the ISW noted.
Kyiv also said on Thursday that its missile strike has seriously damaged Moscow's Soviet-era missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that the crew of the ship was evacuated after ammunition exploded due to a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser.
Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said today that the head of state has been informed about the situation regarding Moskva.