As Russian forces were closing in on a bunker on April 21 in the heavily bombed and surrounded Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, preparing on an assault on the “fortress-like” underground bunker where an estimated 2000 remaining Ukrainian troops are said to be holed up, Russian President Vladimir Putin reversed his order and told Russian troops to surround the hard-pressed Ukrainians until, out of ammunition, food, and water, they came out voluntarily. Reporting on this decision, the New York Times, in an update to a story on the city’s final battle, claimed Putin had made the decision to avoid his troops having to fight their way through tunnels taking inevitably heavy casualties. What the Times didn’t mention was Putin’s saying that he also did not want to have fought in the bunker (or clearly, to hit it with a bunker-busting bomb, which could have been done long ago) because of hundreds of civilians said by Ukrainian sources to be “hiding” there. Russia views them as captives being used by the mostly Azov Battalion forces as hostages (itself, if true, a war crime).

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