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Russia’s Putin hails “successful liberation” of Mariupol—the pivot that controls the Black Sea

Russia’s Putin hails “successful liberation” of Mariupol—the pivot that controls the Black Sea

Russian President Vladmir Putin has hailed the “successful liberation” of Mariupol, a strategic coastal city that would help Moscow to project its naval power in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.  

After establishing control over Mariupol and the eastern Donbas region, Russia would be able to dominate a southern corridor that would have the Crimean peninsula on one end.

The Russians had taken over Crimea, dominated by ethnic Russians in 2014 after a duly elected pro-Russian government in Kiev was toppled with western support. The successful “regime change” following the so-called Maidan square revolution endangered Moscow’s access to Sevastopol, the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet in Crimea.  

Russian media reports say that Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that Mariupol has fallen. The only holdout is the Azovstal steel plant in the city , where  more than 2,000 militants, loyal to Kiev, are still holed out.

According to Russia Today, President Putin had rejected Shoigu’s plan of storming the area. He asserted that such a step would be  “inadvisable” . Instead Putin had ordered Shoigu to “safely block” the area, and cut off supplies. Once this was done, the inmates should be persuaded to lay down their  arms.  

The siege of Mariupol was established in early March, leading to the encirclement of around 8,100 Ukrainian soldiers, foreign mercenaries, and nationalist militants. These included members of the notorious Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, the Russian defence ministry estimated.

Shoigu told Putin that more than 1,400 militants have surrendered, while  142,000 civilians have also been evacuated from the city.

The Russians are focusing on “liberating” the Donbass region, comprising the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

Already, the Russian forces have made major headway in Luhansk. TRT of Turkey is quoting  Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai as saying that  Russian forces now control 80 percent of the two sub-regions, comprising Donbass.

Governor  Haidai pointed out that after seizing Kreminna,  the Russians were now advancing to the cities of Rubizhne and Popasna.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia's republic of Chechnya, whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, said the Azovstal steel plant would be under Russian control soon.

On the diplomatic side, the Turks who have mediated between the Russians and the Ukrainians are now blaming some NATO members for the prolongation of the conflict.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, told CNN Turk that “following the (recent) NATO foreign ministers' meeting, it was the impression that…there are those within the NATO member states that want the war to continue, let the war continue and Russia get weaker," Cavusoglu observed.

Nevertheless, the meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine could happen at any time."If you look at the text they've sent each other, that depends on the two leaders. It could happen at any time," he said.

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