US, Kiev lying about people in Azovstal: Moscow
Russia accuses the United States and Ukraine of lying about Moscow not allowing people to leave the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
There is evidence that there were people at Azovstal unrelated to the Ukrainian forces, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Friday.
"Of course, there is evidence that there are not only people who belong directly to the armed forces," she said on the air of the Rossiya 24 broadcaster, adding that "the path from Azovstal is open to anyone who wants to go through there."
Zakharova also dismissed accusations about Russia not allowing people to leave the Azovstal in Mariupol calling them "lies", describing all related statements as such as well.
Regarding the situation around Azovtal, the spokesperson noted that "the Kiev regime [repeatedly] stated that the Russian side did not allow civilians to leave Azovstal. Well, this is a lie. This is not true. The Russian side, through the mouth of the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, has repeatedly talked about how people who want to leave the territory of Azovstal can do so."
She also went on to underline how Kiev and Washington "pretend that there is no possibility for the civilian population to leave," accusing them of "intimidating people who are inside Azovstal."
"They are doing everything so that people who are at Azovstal continue to be there. For them, this is a continuation of the 'human shield' policy," she explained.
The Russian Armed Forces had renewed their offer for nationalist Ukrainian militants and foreign mercenaries remaining at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to halt their hostilities and lay down their arms on Wednesday.
Russian National Defense Center chief Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev cited Moscow's forces' humane principles as the reason behind the offer, underlining to the militants that they would be "guaranteed life" if they take the Russian offer and comply with Russia's conditions.
All of Mariupol's urban area has been cleared of Ukrainian troops, with more than 4,000 soldiers eliminated over the past day alone, the Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday.
The city has been a playground for Ukrainian provocations since the war broke out in the country on February 24. The Russian Defense Ministry had revealed that Ukrainian nationalists in Mariupol used about 150 civilians as human shields and opened fire against DPR fighters from behind the civilians' backs.