“I consider the proposed storming of the industrial area pointless. I order to abort it,” Putin responded, saying he was concerned about ”preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for Mariupol on Thursday, even as he ordered his troops not to risk more losses by storming the giant steel plant containing the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city, AP reports.

Instead, he directed his forces to seal off the Azovstal plant “so that not even a fly comes through.”

Russian troops have bombarded the southeastern port city since the early days of the conflict and largely reduced it to ruins. Top officials have repeatedly claimed it was about to fall, but Ukrainian forces have stubbornly held on.

In recent weeks, a few thousand defenders, by Russia’s estimate, holed up in the labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers at the sprawling steel plant, as Russian forces pounded the site and repeatedly issued ultimatums ordering their surrender.

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