Putin declares victory in Mariupol, calls off steel mill attack

The weeks of fierce fighting in Mariupol forced a significant portion of Russia’s fighting power; At one point, military analysts estimated the battle included about 10% of all Russian forces in Ukraine.

On Thursday, a Russian video bulletin from the scene showed a convoy of armored vehicles moving away from Mariupol. Seymon Pegov, a pro-Kremlin reporter present with Russian forces in the city, interviewed Timur Kurilkin, commander of a separatist battalion from Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine held by separatists .

“We’re going home, to Donetsk,” Kurilkin said, passing the vehicles. “Our next battle is tomorrow,” he speakwithout specifying where.

In Mariupol, Russia is seeking to establish power over civilian life. Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, promised high school students that they would receive a diploma certified by the separatist organization.

On Wednesday, Andrei Turchak, a top official in Putin’s party, visited a school in Mariupol, which has switched to a Russian-language curriculum. In a video of his visit, posted on social media, he said, “Many textbooks have been delivered and these activities will continue.”

Anton Troianovski report from Hamburg, Germany, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York. Report contributed by Michael Schwirtz from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, David E. Sanger and Zach Montague from Washington, Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul, Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London, Alan Yuhas from New York, and Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland.

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