Mariupol falls into Russian hands as fighters leave steel plant

Ukraine has moved to abandon the steel plant where hundreds of its fighters had held out for months

The fall of Mariupol appears to be imminent as Ukraine has made moves to abandon the steel plant where its soldiers have been held for the last few months.

According to the Associated Press, this would be the biggest Ukrainian city to fall into Russian hands since the start of the war.

Much of the steel plant has now been reduced to rubble.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is working on getting its remaining troops safely out of the Azovstal steel plant.

In his daily address to the country, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s military and intelligence officers were supervising the evacuation mission and “the most influential international mediators are involved.”

So far, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have left the Azovstal steel plant and turned themselves over to Russian hands.

Many of the Ukrainian fighters that were extracted from Mariupol have been taken to a former penal colony in Russian-controlled territory.

A top Ukrainian military official said that he hoped they could be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war.

However, a Moscow lawmaker said they should be brought to “justice.”

Ukraine's deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said negotiations for the fighters' release were ongoing, as were plans to rescue those who were still inside the sprawling steel mill.

British Ministry of Defence revealed on Twitter that Russia has been using auxiliary force during its invasion of Ukraine.

"In attempting to overcome Ukrainian resistance, Russia has made significant use of auxiliary personnel. This includes deployment of Chechen forces, likely consisting of several thousand fighters primarily concentrated in the Mariupol and Luhansk sectors.”

It said the forces likely consist of both individual volunteers and National Guard units.