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Russian troops storming last Mariupol stronghold after Putin said the assault would be too dangerous

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Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
  • Russia is reportedly attacking Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant, Ukraine's last pocked of resistance.
  • Putin previously called off an assault on the plant because he said it would be too dangerous for Russian troops.
  • A small band of Ukrainian defenders and civilians have been holed up at the plant for weeks now.
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Russian forces are storming Ukraine's last stronghold in bombarded Mariupol just two weeks after President Vladimir Putin said the assault would be too dangerous for his troops.

Heavy fighting continued on Wednesday around the Azovstal steel plant, where a small band of Ukrainian resistance has been holed up with civilians for weeks, according to multiple reports

Russian forces on Tuesday tried to storm the plant with a ground assault while under the cover of airstrikes, according to the Institute for the Study of War.  

Mariupol's Mayor Vadym Boichenko also told Ukrainian television that he lost contact with the resistance, CNN reported

Putin in late April called off a Russian offensive on the surrounded steel plant because he believed it would be too costly for Russian soldiers, and instead called for a blockade so nobody could leave. 

"There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities," Putin said. 

Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu at the time said his forces had captured the city which, for weeks, was the centre of a devastating Russian shelling campaign that has killed thousands of civilians and left a trail of ruins. 

The Ukrainian defenders of Azovstal repeatedly ignored Russian orders to surrender. 

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, over a hundred civilians who were previously hiding at Azovstal reached safety in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia after a days-long evacuation effort that involved the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.

The evacuation, though small, marked a rare instance during the ongoing war where Russia appeared to have cooperated with international efforts to save the lives of Ukrainian civilians. 

The renewed assault on the plant seemingly marks a total reversal of Putin's previous remarks and comes amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis in the port city. 

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