Ukrainian militants are trying to take up firing positions but these efforts are being suppressed, President Putin spokesman says.
Russian forces are not storming the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where Ukrainian military servicemen and members of the neo-Nazi Azov battalion have been holed up for more than a month, according to a Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
According to the official, the Russian military is abiding by President Vladimir Putin's earlier order not to storm the plant.
We see flare-ups occur when militants get out of gun emplacements. He said that these attempts are being suppressed quite quickly.
On Tuesday, several Russian and Ukrainian media outlets reported that fighting had broken out at and around the giant steelworks compound after a few days of relative calm thanks to a ceasefire declared by Moscow to ensure the evacuation of civilians from the area. According to these reports, the plant of Azovstal was pounded by artillery and aerial bombardment. Unveilled footage circulating on social media appeared to corroborate this, showing plumes of smoke billowing from the facility.
The Donetsk People's Republic claimed that the Ukrainian military and Azov fighters holed up at the industrial facility took advantage of the lull provided by the evacuation ceasefire to take up new positions.
Moscow says its forces now control the entire port city of Mariupol, except for the Azovstal plant, which has an extensive network of fortified Cold War-era bunkers and tunnels, where Ukrainian troops have been besieged for over a month.
On April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an operation to storm the steelworks, fearing heavy casualties among Russian troops, and ordered a complete blockade of Ukrainian forces holed up there.
Peskov was asked to comment on reports in the Western media claiming that President Putin could order a mass mobilization in Russia on May 9, the day the country celebrates its victory in World War II. The Kremlin spokeswoman dismissed these claims as rubbish, reassuring reporters that Putin was not planning to declare war on Ukraine.
Peskov accused the Ukrainian leadership of constantly changing its positions, despite the lack of progress in Russia-Ukraine talks. He added that Moscow was unsure whether the negotiations would bear fruit.
When asked about the sixth round of EU sanctions, which representatives from all 27 member states are expected to adopt later this week, Peskov said that sanctions were a double-edged sword and that European citizens would have to pick up the tab.