This is a devastating blow for Ukraine as Putin declares victory over the city.
Russian has claimed it has taken the besieged city of Mariupol and surrounded 2,000 people in a factory.
Putin’s forces reportedly seized the key Ukrainian port city on Thursday morning after the Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov said Kyiv warned that its forces were unable to “hold out for much longer”.
The southern city of Ukraine has been a major target for Russia since the invasion of Ukraine began almost two months ago.
In a televised meeting, Vladimir Putin hailed the “liberation” of the city but has abandoned plans to storm the last stronghold of resistance around the Azovstal steelworks, where around 1,000 civilians have been sheltering from shelling and missile attacks.
After days of fighting back against near-constant Russian attacks, Ukrainian defenders of the plant said they were “outnumbered”.
Instead of storming the plant, Putin instead called for his forces to “block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape”.
Kadyrov, the head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, said Mariupol will fall on Thursday.
“Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation,” he said.
Ukrainian Marine commander Serhiy Volny had already warned that fighters at the plant may not be able to “hold out for much longer”.
“The enemy units are dozens of times larger than ours, they have dominance in the air, in artillery, in ground troops, in equipment, and in tanks,” he said.
Speaking to Sky News, he said that more than 500 fighters needed medical support and that troops were “outnumbered 10 to one”.
Meanwhile, more nations are answering Ukraine’s pleas to reject recent Russian iconography as Lithuania bans ‘Z’ symbols from being displayed in public around the country.
The Russian ‘Z’ has become a nationalist emblem behind which those in support of the ongoing invasion have rallied and after reports that the symbol could be made illegal in Germany, the Lithuanian parliament announced on Tuesday that displays would no longer be allowed.
While Lithuania, Moldova, and potentially Germany are leading the way in banning what are now considered pro-Putin sentiments, few are yet to denounce them.