On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the successful evacuation of about 100 Ukrainian civilians from the steel plant, after the United Nations confirmed its supervision of the implementation of “safe passage” for civilians.
The exit of civilians from the underground from this industrial complex is a first step of its kind, after all previous evacuation attempts failed in this coastal city in the southeast of the country, which was almost completely destroyed after weeks of siege.
Negotiations to evacuate civilians have repeatedly collapsed in recent weeks, with Moscow and Kiev blaming each other.
The city of Mariupol, a strategic coastal city on the Sea of Azov, was subjected to a severe siege by Russian forces, until the Russian President announced control of the city on April 21, despite the resort of hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians to the Azovstal Factory, a huge Soviet-era complex with a network From bunkers and tunnels, they were trapped with little food and living supplies.
Recent satellite images of the company “Maxar Technologies” taken at the end of last month show damage to almost all buildings of the Azovstal steel plant complex.
So far, the Russian army is still seeking to achieve military victories on the Ukrainian lands, while it has modified its plans and withdrawn its forces from the northern regions, to focus on “liberating” the Donbas region, according to Moscow, as the main goal of the war.
The researcher specializing in military affairs at the Egyptian Center for Thought and Strategic Studies, Mohamed Mansour, believes that Mariupol is the second most important city in the Donetsk region, and the main Ukrainian port on the Sea of Azov. Separatist forces in Donetsk have tried several times to control this port, since 2014, with the aim of achieving Land contact between Donbass and Crimea, but this was prevented by the resistance of the forces inside the city.
Taking Mariupol would help Moscow implement its plan to control the entire southern coast of Ukraine, which would unite pro-Russian breakaway regions such as Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and increase access to the pro-Russian region of Transnistria. across Ukraine’s western border with Moldova.
Mansour explained, in exclusive statements to “Sky News Arabia”, that what is remarkable about the matter is the clear desire on the part of the Russian forces to capture all the elements inside the compound, so they have been avoiding storming it directly during the past weeks, before the United Nations supervised the implementation of Safe Passage” for the recent evacuation of civilians.
Regarding the importance of full Russian control over this city, he pointed out that it is not only limited to its important presence on the Sea of Azov and its naval facilities, but rather acquires industrial importance as it includes a group of the largest Ukrainian factories, especially the “Azovstal” complex, which is one of the largest iron and steel factories. In Europe, which requires Kyiv to lose about 40% of its heavy industries, especially iron and steel, with Moscow controlling this city.
He stressed that the completion of the Russian hold on Mariupol, which is about 55 kilometers from the border with Russia, guarantees the implementation of the first part of the plan to control the Ukrainian coast, ending any presence of Kiev on the Sea of Azov.
Mansour pointed out that Moscow’s reluctance to take control of the city of Mariupol, despite the fall of the majority of the city’s neighborhoods, strongly suggests the desire of the Russian army to postpone the completion of control of the city, until the anniversary of Victory Day, May 9, so that operations in this city are ended. In conjunction with this anniversary, and achieving a field victory that can be marketed morally, in the media, and militarily.
The researcher in military affairs considered that there is another possibility that the Mariupol paper will serve as a means of political pressure on Kyiv, with the aim of blackmailing it militarily and politically, similar to what was the case during the Kyiv battles in the first stage.
He stressed that Moscow has the military ability to resolve the battle of Mariupol, and to achieve a field achievement represented in controlling the entire Ukrainian coast overlooking the Sea of Azov, but this achievement will remain incomplete and incomplete because Kyiv continues to maintain a presence on the Black Sea coast, which may witness a decisive battle in Port “Odessa”.
Russia has intermittently targeted the Black Sea port of Odessa.
Hours ago, Odessa airport in southern Ukraine was hit by a Russian missile attack, which led to the destruction of the runway without causing casualties, according to the region’s governor, Maxim Marchenko.
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