Ukraine conflict: Russian troops ‘likely to redeploy from Mariupol’ - MoD

Russian commanders will be coming under increasing pressure to reallocate troops from the strategic southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to bolster their offensive in eastern Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

More than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in the strategic port city have surrendered since Monday, Russian authorities said, in what appears to be the final stage in the near three-month siege.

If the factory falls, Russia will likely use troops from the city to reinforce operations elsewhere in the eastern industrial Donbas region, but the duration of the resistance will complicate or prolong that manoeuvre, the MoD said in a daily intelligence report.

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In an update the MoD wrote: “Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively.

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“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives. That means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition.”

In a brief video message on Thursday, the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which led the defence of the steel mill, said he and other fighters were still inside.

“An operation is under way, the details of which I will not announce,” Svyatoslav Palamar said.

An APC of Donetsk People's Republic militia stands not far from Mariupol's besieged Azovstal steel plant, in Mariupol, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo)

Ukrainian troops, bolstered by Western weapons, thwarted Russia’s initial goal of storming the capital, Kyiv, and have put up stiff resistance against Moscow’s forces in the Donbas, which President Vladimir Putin now has set his sights on capturing.

Meanwhile, in the first war crimes trial held by Ukraine, Sgt Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old member of a Russian tank unit, told a court in Kyiv on Thursday that he shot Oleksandr Shelipov, a 62-year-old Ukrainian civilian, in the head on orders from an officer.

Shishimarin apologised to the victim’s widow, Kateryna Shelipova, who described seeing her husband being shot just outside their home in the early days of Russia’s invasion.