At a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu Vladimir Putin called off the storming of the Azovstal industrial zone in Mariupol saying it was inexpedient.
«I consider the proposed storming of the industrial zone inexpedient. I order it to be called off. This is a case when we must think, that is, we must always think, particularly in this case, about preserving the lives and health of our soldiers and officers. There is no need to enter those catacombs and crawl underground into those industrial facilities. Block off this industrial area so that even a fly will not get through. Once again tell all those who have not yet laid down their arms to do so. The Russian side will guarantee their lives and treat them with dignity, in accordance with the relevant international laws. All those wounded will be provided with qualified medical assistance,» Putin said.
On April 20, the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov special regiment, Svyatoslav Palamar, recorded a video message in which he outlined the conditions under which the Ukrainian armed forces were ready to leave the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. The military do not agree to surrender and leave the bodies of the dead, the wounded and weapons in the city. At the same time, they are ready to evacuate to, or with the assistance of, a third country.
On April 15, the Mariupol City Council reported that the Russian military banned the burial of civilians they had killed. According to local authorities, they have also been exhuming bodies that were earlier buried near residential buildings. As the city council suggests, this is how Russian soldiers are trying to hide traces of war crimes. Earlier, Ukrainian intelligence also reported seeing 13 mobile crematoriums in Mariupol.
Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko earlier said more than 10,000 civilians had been killed during the siege of the city. According to him, this number could exceed 20,000, as the «streets are strewn with bodies» of those killed. Russian troops have been blocking convoys with humanitarian aid from entering the city for weeks, trying to hide what's happening there from the outside world, Boychenko said. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky also spoke of tens of thousands of the dead. He said the Russian army wanted to «make an example» of Mariupol's destruction.