For those who have been following the battle in Mariupol, Putin’s order is highly interesting.
Obviously, the order is filmed and made public for its propaganda value. Sitting at the table to receive the order is Russia’s Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu.
At issue: Russian forces have captured all the municipal areas of Mariupol, but a Ukrainian force of about 2,000 troops have garrisoned themselves in a network of tunnels beneath the Azovstal steel plant. How to get them out?
Russian commanders have repeatedly called on the entrapped Ukrainians to surrender, but Kiev has ordered them to stand pat or risk being shot as traitors. Yesterday, one of the underground commanders offered to surrender to a third-party country and to release some 200-400 civilian hostages in his possession in the bargain.
Rumors have been flying for a couple of weeks that something or someone very important is trapped in the steel plant. Indeed, about two weeks ago French president, Macron, make a personal plea to Putin in a telephone call to allow personnel at the plant to escape. At least eight helicopters and one cargo ship have attempted to rescue the mysterious target. All unsuccessfully.
Now that the order has been given to secure the factory, we may be on the verge of learning what or who has been hiding in Azovstal.