The Kremlin on Wednesday denied that Russia was storming the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol after Ukraine accused Moscow of launching a “powerful" assault on the industrial zone where Kyiv’s forces are holed up.
“The order was publicly given by the supreme commander-in-chief to call off the assault," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring to an order given by President Vladimir Putin last month not to pursue an attack on the area.
“There is no storming," Peskov said.
He said that there are instances of “exacerbation" at the site when Ukrainian “militants take up firing positions".
“These attempts are suppressed very quickly," Peskov said.
The Ukrainian military said Tuesday that Russian forces had launched an offensive on the besieged Azovstal steel plant after some 100 civilians were evacuated from the tunnels beneath the steelworks.
The Russian army said its forces were using artillery and planes to target Azovstal, while the defence ministry accused Ukrainian troops of using a pause in fighting to once again take up their combat positions at the plant.
The strategic port of Mariupol is among the most battered cities in Ukraine, after Russian forces besieged the city for several weeks.