Russian troops likely to redeploy from Mariupol: Britain

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KYIV: With number of defenders left holed up in a Mariupol steel factory dwindling, Russian commanders will be coming under increasing pressure to reallocate troops from strategic southern port city to bolster their offensive in eastern Ukraine, Britain’s Defense Ministry said.

More than 1,700 defenders of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered since Monday, Russian authorities said, in what appeared to be final stage in nearly three-month siege of now-pulverized port city. An unknown number of defenders remain in sprawling complex, which is last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city a target from start of invasion that has been under effective Russian control for some time.

If factory falls, Russia will likely use troops from city to reinforce operations elsewhere in eastern industrial Donbas region, but duration of stiff resistance will complicate or prolong that maneuver, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a daily intelligence report.

“Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives. That means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition.” Analysts have said it is likely that most of Russian forces that were tied down by battle there have already left.

International Committee of Red Cross said that it had gathered personal information from hundreds of soldiers who had surrendered name, date of birth, closest relative and registered them as prisoners as part of its role in ensuring humane treatment of POWs under Geneva Conventions.

While Ukraine expressed hope for a prisoner exchange, Russian authorities have threatened to investigate some of Azovstal fighters for war crimes and put them on trial, branding them “Nazis” and criminals.–Agencies