Russia said on April 16 that there were no Ukrainian troops in the urban area of Mariupol, a key battlefield in the east of Ukraine.
“The entire urban territory of Mariupol is completely cleared of militants of the Nazist group ‘Azov,’ foreign mercenaries, and Ukrainian troops,” the Russian Defense Ministry wrote in a social media post.
The remainder of the Ukrainian groups are blocked on Azovstal, one of Europe’s biggest metallurgical plants located in the east of Mariupol, the Kremlin said.
“Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their weapons and surrender,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
According to the post, there were about 8,100 Ukrainian soldiers or militants in Mariupol on March 11; 1,464 of them have surrendered, no more than 2,500 people are still blocked in Azovstal, and more than 4,000 have been killed.
The Epoch Times cannot verify the data independently.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN on April 15 that about 2,500 to 3,000 troops had died during the war. He appeared to be referring to the whole war, not specifically about the battles at Mariupol.
Russia’s announcement came right after Zelenskyy threatened that the elimination of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol would make talks impossible.
“The more Borodianka-like cases appear, there will be no chance that negotiations will be held actually,” he said during an interview with Ukrainian media. “The destruction of all our guys in Mariupol—what they are doing now—can put an end to any format of negotiations.”
Borodianka is an urban-style settlement about 37 miles northwest of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from which the Russian forces recently withdrew. Zelenskyy said that more than 300 civilians were killed by Russian forces, with about 30 of them executed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, which the Kremlin called “a special military operation.”
The United Nations said that as of April 15, 1,982 civilians had been killed and 2,651 injured in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and more than 4.8 million people had fled Ukraine.
Russian forces recently shifted the focus to the south and east of Ukraine where the separatist or disputed territories are located. The Kremlin is apparently intending to occupy the corridor connecting Crimea and Donbas, with Mariupol being a key city along the corridor.
However, a ceasefire over this area seems stuck with the two sides showing irreconcilable stances.
The gap between Russian and Ukrainian views seems unbridgeable on the issue of Crimea and Donbas; both areas have been de facto occupied by Russia or pro-Russian separatists.
Putin clearly demanded that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and Donetsk and Luhansk as independent. Meanwhile, Zelenskyy agreed to possibly set aside the disputes for those territories but also vowed to not give them up.
“We understand the Russian side. We understand one of their provisions that is always talked about is to recognize Crimea as Russian territory. I will definitely not recognize that,” he said during an interview with CBS on April 10.
“And they would really like to take the southern parts of our country … but we were not ready to give up our territory from the beginning. Had we been willing to give up our territory, there would be no war.”
Reuters contributed to the report.