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Ukrainian forces do everything to keep people inside Azovstal as human shields — diplomat

Maria Zakharova called Kiev’s statements that Russia prevents civilians from leaving Azovstal a lie

MOSCOW, April 22. /TASS/. Kiev is doing everything it can so that people present at the Azovstal plant remained there; it is an extension of the human shield policy for Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Russian TV Friday.

"They are doing everything - the Kiev regime does it, backed by the US - so that people present at Azovstal remained there. It is a continuation of the human shield tactics," she said.

Zakharova also called Kiev’s statements that Russia prevents civilians from leaving Azovstal a lie.

"It is a lie, it is not true. Russia said it repeatedly through the Ministry of Defense, Russian Armed Forces said repeatedly, which paths, which options people who want to leave Azovstal can use to do that. Their security, their life, medical aid was guaranteed after they come out. All this was said repeatedly," she underscored.

The Kiev regime, together with Washington, must pretend that there is no option for exit of civilians, the diplomat added.

"They intimidate the people inside Azovstal, they intimidate everyone around them," she noted. "The path from Azovstal is open for everyone who wants to do it."

Russia has information indicating that there are people present at Azovstal, not connected to Ukrainian Armed Forces, Zakharova noted.

"There is information that not all people there belong to the armed forces directly," she said.

On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that the city of Mariupol has been liberated and that the remaining nationalist forces have holed up at the Azovstal plant industrial area. Putin called an assault on Azovstal inexpedient, and ordered to cancel the assault and to cordon off the plant "so that not a single fly could pass through." Meanwhile, the president ordered to once again offer Ukrainian forces to surrender, underscoring that "Russia guarantees them life and appropriate treatment," as well as qualified medical aid to the injured.