The siege of Azovstal seems to be ending, as Ukraine confirms the ongoing evacuation of the plant’s defenders.
Though the city of Mariupol effectively fell long ago, with fighting raging mostly in the labyrinthian Azovstal steelworks, the symbolic resistance by Ukraine’s Azov battalion drew international outcry for the evacuation of civilians sheltering in the plant. Many civilians in Mariupol were unable to escape the fierce fighting and were either gunned down by Russian forces, sent to filtration camps, or even shipped abroad. A growing collection of mass graves have been identified via MAXAR’s satellite imagery, with anywhere from 6,000 to 21.000+ civilians killed.
After taking the majority of Mariupol, Russia resorted to using a combination of heavy bombardment and human wave attacks in an attempt to beat the plant’s defenders into submission. After being met with failure, Russia frequently switched doctrines, halting and resuming ground attacks several times over the course of the siege. When these attacks were met with failure, Russia recommitted the majority of its forces to the more relevant battle in the Donbas. Regardless of whether Azovstal were to hold or not, Russia had won what remained of Mariupol and connected Crimea with the rest of Russia.
Amidst a wider Russian collapse in the north, victory at Mariupol seems temporary; unless Russia escalates, its current gains are untenable. Russia has been forced to resort to keeping forces on the northern border with Ukraine, as well as in Belarus, in order to tie up Ukrainian troops in the north. However, this will not be enough to stop Ukraine’s forces, increasingly being supplied with heavy weapons, from pushing through Russian lines.
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