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Russia tells Ukraine to return Azovstal plant by noon

Russia on Tuesday called on Ukrainian forces and foreign fighters entrenched in the Azovstal metallurgical plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to lay down their arms by noon Moscow time (0900 GMT) if they wanted to live. .

Mariupol, surrounded by Russian troops for weeks, has seen the fiercest fighting and most complete destruction since Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.

Ukrainian authorities said on Monday that as many as 1,000 civilians were hiding in underground shelters under the sprawling Azovstal factory, adding that Russia was dropping heavy bombs on the Ukrainian-held factory in the besieged city.

The Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday calling on Ukrainian forces and foreign fighters to surrender.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed to stay alive,” the defense ministry said.

Pro-Russian troops load rocket-propelled grenades into an infantry fighting vehicle in Mariupol.
Russia tells Ukraine to return Azovstal plant by noon
Smoke is seen rising from the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works factory.

He called on the troops to withdraw from the steelworks between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Moscow time “without exception, without weapons and without ammunition”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian-backed separatist forces said they were trying to storm the Azovstal steel plant and take control of it as soon as possible.