Putin: Don’t Storm Azovstal Plant, Let them Starve


Russian President Vladimir Putin has called off an assault on the Azovstal steel plant in the Black Sea port of Mariupol during a meeting with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Thursday. The facility still harbors some 2,000 Ukrainian militants, including the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ regiment, according to Shoigu.

“We always need to think about preserving the lives and health of our soldiers and officers,” Putin told the defense chief, adding that, in this particular case, they should not be sent to assault the steel plant.

“One should not get into those catacombs and crawl there underground, in these industrial facilities,” the president said. Built back in Soviet times, the Azovstal steel plant has a vast network of well-fortified underground tunnels built to withstand heavy bombardments. An aide to the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Yan Gagin, had once described these tunnels as an underground city.

Retreating Ukrainian forces, including the notorious Azov regiment, have entrenched themselves in these tunnels and have since used them as their last line of defense. On Thursday, Shoigu told Putin that Russian forces and the Donbass republics’ militias have fully seized the city of Mariupol, except for the Azovstal plant complex.

Shoigu has also said that a military operation at the plant could be finished in three to four days, apparently planning to storm the facility. Putin has instead ordered his troops to “seal the area so that a fly cannot get through.”

The president has also offered those entrenched at the plant another chance to surrender. “Offer anyone, who has not laid down their arms yet, to do that,” he has told Shoigu, adding that Russia “guarantees them their lives as well as decent treatment under all international norms.” Those injured will also get “qualified medical treatment,” the president added.