The US believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim to have seized full control of Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol is “disinformation,” State Department Ned Prince said on Thursday.
“We understand that Ukraine’s forces continue to hold their ground and there is every reason to believe that President Putin and his defense minister’s show for the media that we saw in recent hours is even yet more disinformation from their well-worn playbook,” Price said in a press briefing.
Since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine on February 24, Washington has accused Moscow of launching a “disinformation campaign” it used to invent false pretexts to justify its actions and spinning propaganda and a narrative that diverged from the real events on the ground.
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Putin’s claim of victory in Mariupol
Putin claimed on Thursday a Russian victory in Mariupol and called off an operation to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged port city.
Mariupol has been under relentless bombardment for weeks. It is a strategic target for the Russians that would allow Moscow to establish control over territory linking the Donbas in south-eastern Ukraine to annexed Crimea.
Russian forces were recently focusing their offensive in the port city on the Azovstal steel plant, where thousands of soldiers and civilians sought shelter.
According to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Russian troops were “three to four days” away from seizing control of the plant, state news agency TASS reported.
But Putin called off the offensive.
“In this case, we need to think about – I mean, we always need to think about it, but particularly in this case – we need to think about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers. There’s no reason to penetrate through these subterranean pathways and beneath these industrial facilities,” TASS quoted Putin as saying.
He ordered that the plant be “blocked so that even a fly can’t get in or out,” and the Ukrainians inside be offered to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty.
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