(Reuters) – The Kremlin denied that Russian troops were storming the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters and civilians are trapped, and said humanitarian corridors were operating there on Thursday.
Asked if a claim by a senior Ukrainian official that Russian troops had broken into the plant’s territory was true, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred reporters to President Vladimir Putin’s previous order not to storm it.
Putin was shown on television on April 21 telling his defence minister instead to seal off the vast complex so “a fly can’t pass through”.
“You were witnesses, the president gave the order to refrain from an assault. No other orders were announced and the (humanitarian) corridors are working today”, Peskov said.
On Thursday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for a prolonged ceasefire to evacuate civilians including women and children from bunkers under the Azovstal steel plant.
Russia’s military said it would pause military activity at the steel works during Thursday daytime and the following two days to allow civilians to leave.
(Reporting by Reuters)