Putin orders troops to leave Mariupol steel mill intact amid ongoing conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin is beginning to show uncharacteristic restraint. Perhaps his conflict with Ukraine is more costly than he could have imagined.

Putin has ordered his troops to leave the steel mill in Mariupol untouched as Ukrainian forces continue to hold off Russian troops there, NPR reported. He told his defense minister not to invade the plant area to avoid additional Russian casualties.

The Russian president was so adamant that he asked that the steel mill be tightly cordoned off “so that not even a fly comes through.” According to a U.S. senior defense official, eastern Donbas and Mariupol are both still active warzones.

Predictably, Russian officials deny such an edict and instead insist that Ukrainian forces have begun destroying the mill’s equipment. However, it’s notable that this is the first time Russia has pivoted to a less aggressive stance possibly signaling that there’s trouble keeping up the offensive.

This would be good news considering there are currently thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers holed up in the area of the steel mill. An earlier deal between the warring nations allowed a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the city, but that agreement fell apart Wednesday with only four buses leaving the area.

Ukraine has been concentrating on brokering deals like the humanitarian corridor and holding peace talks with Russia with some success. However, after Russia moved out of the areas around Kyiv, the world learned of the atrocities in Bucha thus fortifying opposition to the Russian invasion.

Photos showed the brutality against civilians and of the mass graves left behind by the Russian invasion. This has had a chilling effect on the prospect of a truce unless there’s anything short of a total stand-down by Russia.

Though the war will continue, the fight for the steel mill seems to have come to a close. This could be the first sign of Putin’s weakening in the face of increasing casualties — and that just might be the beginning of the end for this endeavor.

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