VLADIMIR Putin has called off the assault on hero Ukrainian troops buried in the Mariupol steel plant, declaring the besieged city is now in Russian hands.
He ordered his forces to continue to securely blockade the complex instead of launching a bloody final battle.
Up to 2,000 Ukrainian troops are said to be holed up in the Azovstal plant which boasts a large underground network of tunnels.
The Russian President said he considered the "storming of the industrial zone unnecessary" as he wanted to safeguard his men.
But the warmonger instead wants an impenetrable wall of soldiers surrounding the steel works.
"There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities," he said.
"Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot pass through."
He gave the fresh orders to his defence minister Sergei Shoigu, while calling on the remaining Ukrainian fighters to surrender.
Putin promised they would treat them with respect and would provide medical assistance to those injured.
It comes after his "attack dog" and Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov declared Mariupol would fall within HOURS as Ukrainian marines prepared for a final stand.
Winning the bloody battle for the major city would mark one of Russia's biggest triumphs since the invasion began two months ago.
Seizing the port city is an essential step in Putin's strategy, due to its location, size and functionalities.
The martyrs of Mariupol have vowed to fight to the death in a gory last stand as they desperately hold off troops.
But the stark possibility of a Russian win is not being ignored by Ukrainians, as the remaining soldiers released a haunting "final message".
Major Serhiy Volyna – the commander of Ukrainian forces' last stronghold at a steelworks in the besieged city – says troops will not surrender despite relentless blasts by Russian fighters.
Putin's army is trying to storm the Azovstal iron and steelworks where the final Ukrainian troops and civilians are holding out and using underground tunnels to stage a last stand.
But now Kadyrov, the head of Russia's republic of Chechnya, claims his country will reign victorious in just a matter of hours.
He taunted: "Before lunchtime, or after lunch, Azovstal will be completely under the control of the forces of the Russian Federation."
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Major Volyna, of the 36th separate marine brigade, has insisted forces at the plant will "not lay down our weapons" despite being outnumbered ten to one.
In a chilling video, he warned it could be their "last message" as Russian troops surround the area and unleash constant barrages of fire.
"This is our appeal to the world. This could be our last message," he said.
"We are probably facing our last days, if not hours.
"The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one. They have advantage in the air, in artillery, in their forces on land, in equipment and in tanks.
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"We are only defending one object – the Azovstal plant where, in addition to military personnel, there are also civilians who have fallen victim to this war."
He also issued a rallying cry for world leaders to help evacuate wounded citizens from the battered city, where large parts have been reduced to rubble by constant air and artillery pounding.
"We appeal and plead to all world leaders to help us," he added.
"We ask them to use the procedures of 'extraction' and take us to the territory of a third party state."
Major Volyna said the unit has more than 500 wounded soldiers – as well as hundreds of civilians, including women and children.
The port city, which was home to more than 450,000 people, has been under constant attack from Russian forces since early March, with satellite images showing devastation to 95 per cent of its residential areas.
Amid the “hellscape”, at least 20,000 people are feared dead.
Ukrainian fighters who remain in Mariupol have been offered a fresh ultimatum to surrender despite not a single soldier accepting the offer on Tuesday.
It comes as…
- 'Mad' Putin is hearing 'voices inside his head', an expert has claimed
- Putin has rewarded the 'butchers of Bucha' for their 'heroism and bravery'
- Russia's military bases have been pictured on Google Maps, amid reports they are using 'fake jets' to fool the West
- While Russia's tinpot army has allegedly been using cheap cameras, gamepads and satnavs to fix up their planes and drones
- A former ally of Putin was found shot dead in his £2m apartment alongside his wife and daughter
- His death follows a number of Putin allies who have been 'purged' in the wake of the Ukraine invasion
The Russian Defence Ministry said: "Russia's armed forces, based purely on humanitarian principles, again propose that the fighters of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries cease their military operations from 1400 Moscow time on 20th April and lay down arms."
A similar offer had been made on Tuesday but according to the Russian Ministry of Defence not one soldier surrendered.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky says "the situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible".
It comes as up to 20,000 mercenaries have reportedly been recruited from Syria and Libya after the long-feared "battle for the Donbas" erupted this week.
Explosions were heard along the entire front on Monday as Putin launched a major new offensive to seize control of the east.
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Ukrainian outlets reported a series of explosions in Kharkiv, Nikolaev and in the suburbs of Donetsk.
And videos on social media appeared to show a blitz on towns as anti-aircraft fire lit up the night sky.
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