Russian forces claim victory in Mariupol

Russian forces have been besieging the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol for weeks. They fought to take control of the key port. Commanders now say the troops have achieved their objective.

Fighting in the city has centered on a large steel complex, where Ukrainian troops are taking up positions and where many civilians are sheltering. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the facility had been “blocked”. President Vladimir Putin had ordered his forces to contain the factory rather than storm it.

Konashenkov said the situation in Mariupol had returned to normal. He added that residents can now walk the streets freely, without having to take cover from the shelling of what he calls “Ukrainian Nazis”.

Konashenkov also said the Russian Air Force was hitting military targets in other regions. However, in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, shells hit a residential building and the main market. Ukrainian officials said one person was killed and six others injured.

Analysts believe May 9 could be a critical day for the invasion, as it is the date the Russians celebrate their victory over Germany in World War II. They say Putin wants to bring more areas in eastern and southern Ukraine under control by then. A Russian official in Mariupol has already announced that a military parade will be held in the city on that date.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is trying to relaunch peace talks. He will travel to Moscow for a meeting with Putin on Tuesday. He is also trying to arrange a visit with Ukrainian leaders.

Putin previously spoke with European Council President Charles Michel. He accused Ukrainian leaders of being inconsistent and of bad faith. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed those comments. On Friday, he said negotiations were “at a standstill”.