Footage released by the Kremlin on April 21 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin instructing his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, to halt an assault on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces continue to hold out.
In the video, which shows Putin and Shoigu sat across from one another at a small table, the defense chief first provides Putin with an update on the military campaign in Mariupol, which he says has been captured by Russian forces and allied militias, with the exception of the Azovstal plant area. Shoigu tells Putin that more than 2,000 Ukrainian forces were in the surrounded industrial zone.
Ukrainian forces in the area have reported the presence of hundreds of civilians at the Azovstal site, and it was unclear if Shoigu’s estimate included them along with armed fighters. According to a transcript accompanying the video, Shoigu says it would take “three or four days” to finish the “work” at Azovstal.
“I consider the proposed storming of the steel plant inexpedient. I order you to cancel it,” said Putin," telling Shoigu to instead block off the area “so that a fly wouldn’t be able to get out.”
Despite placing Mariupol under siege early in its invasion, Russia has struggled to fully defeat Ukrainian soldiers in the city. The Soviet-era Azovstal steel plant in the eastern half of Mariupol contains underground areas where Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have sheltered. In his remarks to Shoigu, Putin suggested the toll of storming “these catacombs” would be high. Credit: Kremlin via Storyful