On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the Ukraine war’s biggest battle, declaring the port of Mariupol “liberated” after nearly two months of siege, despite hundreds of defenders still holding out inside a massive steel works.

Putin said in a televised meeting with his defence minister inside the Kremlin that there was no need for a final confrontation with the last defenders who had been boxed in after surviving Russia’s siege for nearly two months.

“I believe that the proposed storming of the industrial zone is unnecessary,” he told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a televised meeting at the Kremlin. “I direct that you cancel it.”

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