Russia claimed victory in a months-long struggle for Mariupol’s Azovstal steel mill, moving closer to its objective of dominating Ukraine’s Donbas region, and blocked gas deliveries to Finland, escalating an energy payment conflict with Western countries.
Russia also began what appeared to be a huge attack in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the southeastern Donbas region, where Russian-backed rebels already controlled large swaths of territory before the Feb. 24 invasion. According to Russia’s military ministry, the last Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol’s destroyed Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, concluding the war’s worst siege.
“The Azovstal metallurgical plant’s territory has been totally liberated”. The ministry stated in a statement. Lest, adding that 2,439 defenders had surrendered in the previous several days, with 531 in the final group.
Ukraine’s military had advised the last defenders at the steelworks they could get out. And spare their lives, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The estimates on Azovstal were not immediately confirmed by the Ukrainians. In its Saturday morning statement, Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces made no mention of Russia’s assertion.
Rare Victory in Invasion
After a succession of setbacks in nearly three months of fighting, the end of fighting in Mariupol, Russia’s largest city so far and the Donbas’ key port, provides Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory in the invasion.
Putin claims that Russian troops are involved in a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and clear it of anti-Russian radicals. It is said to as an unprovoked war of aggression by Western countries. With the victory in Mariupol, Russia now has entire control of the Sea of Azov as well as an unbroken stretch of land in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Russia Stopped Gas Exports to Finland
Because of Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s Gazprom ceased gas exports to Finland on Saturday. Finland refused to comply to Russian demands that it pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles. The action comes only days after Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO, a decision prompted by the Ukraine conflict.
“Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped”. Finnish gas system operator Gasgrid Finland said in a statement on Saturday.
Gasum, Finland’s state-owned gas wholesaler, and Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas wholesaler, both verified that the flows had ceased.
Gasum, the Finnish government, and individual gas-consuming enterprises in Finland have stated that they are prepared for a Russian gas supply disruption and that the country will be OK. The majority of European supply contracts are in euros or dollars. And Moscow turned off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month when they refused to meet the new payment terms.