Russia badly botched its capture of Mariupol, which should have been over much quicker, analyst says

Pro-Russian forces were seen in front of the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, Ukraine May 16, 2022 REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Ukraine said Monday it was evacuating all troops from its last base in the city of Mariupol.
Although Ukraine had practically given up the territory, it exacted an enormous price from Russia for it.
Thousands of well-armed Russian troops took much longer than expected to push through, an analyst said.
Russia's capture of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol after weeks of fierce Ukrainian resistance was too costly, according to Ukrainian officials and experts.
When Russian troops began taking over the city last month, a group of Ukrainian fighters, the Azov Battalion, withdrew to fight from basement tunnels beneath the steelworks.
At one point, Russian troops were preparing to storm the steelworks, but President Vladimir Putin called off the raid on April 21, instead calling for a blockade "so not even a fly can get through."
Finally it worked. After weeks of enduring attacks by Russian troops, Ukraine's military announced on Monday that it would evacuate troops who had "completed their combat mission."
Though Ukraine's military didn't use the word, the move effectively handed the facility over to Russia, giving them complete control of Mariupol.
One analyst told Insider that the Ukrainians far exceeded expectations, "holding out many weeks longer than was thought feasible."
Although this was a blow to Ukraine in principle, analysts said Ukraine forced Russia to pay a disproportionately high price for the city, which was largely reduced to rubble in the attacks.
In its statement, the Ukrainian military said Russia must send 20,000 troops to the steel plant, who would then be unable to attack other targets in Ukraine.
Smoke rises over Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022.Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
"Forging the enemy's nuclear forces around Mariupol gave us the opportunity to prepare and create the defensive perimeters where our troops are still present today and provide a decent counterpoint to the attacker," it said.
"We have much-needed time to build reserves, regroup forces and enlist assistance from partners."
Keir Giles, a senior adviser to the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, agreed.
"It was clearly important for Russia to continue pounding the defenders in the Azovstal complex long after they were surrounded and cut off from any possible relief, rather than waiting and starving them out," he told Insider.
“This is one of the many spectacular achievements of the defenders, who not only held out for many weeks longer than possible, but in the process tied down a number of Russian troops disproportionate to the military value of the complex objective, thereby facilitating the task of the Ukrainian ones defenders in the rest of the country."
"The length of the siege and the resources Russia has pledged to it only underscores the extent to which the political drivers of the Russian offensive run counter to common sense in the military," he added.
British intelligence indicated on April 18 that Russian commanders would be furious at the slow progress of their forces in Mariupol. It finally took a month longer to take the city.
The story goes on

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