STORY: Putin gave the order to Sergei Shoigu, his defense minister, saying it was better to save the lives of Russian soldiers and officers and to sit back and wait while Ukrainian forces ran out of supplies.
"I consider the proposed storming of the industrial zone unnecessary," Putin told Shoigu in a televised meeting at the Kremlin. "I order you to cancel it."
Shoigu had earlier told Putin that more than 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were still holed up in the plant and that it might take three or four days to take control of the facility.
Putin called on the remaining Ukrainian fighters in Azovstal to lay down their arms, saying Russia would treat them with respect and provide medical assistance to those injured.