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In Mariupol, the Russian troops have completely levelled the city and just leave a small pocket of Ukrainian resistance at Azovstal.

Since Russians have completely encircled the steel mill and the fighters holed up in the place can't go in and out at will, there isn't much that the fighters at Azovstal can do to disrupt the Russia's goal there (ie: they can't stop Russians from "liberating" the rest of the Ukraine). So is there any point -- besides symbolic ones-- in storming the steel mill and completely routing the fighters there?

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    This is the politics forum, so the symbolic advantages are actually the ones that are on-topic. Restricting a question to only military advantages is probably off-topic. May 11 at 11:26

3 Answers 3

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Of course there are:

  • It frees the Russian soldiers currently guarding Azovstal to do other things (like deploy in another part of Ukraine).
  • It removes the threat of the fighters in Azovstal. These fighters might be surrounded, but they're not powerless. They can, for example, break out.
  • Propaganda value: Russia has had precious few victories in the war. Winning in Mariupol would be one.
  • It would eliminate the Azov battalion. I'll quote from the lede why Russia might want to do this:

In the wake of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the battalion gained renewed attention for its use by Russia in justifying the invasion and during the Siege of Mariupol for its role in the defense of the city...The battalion drew controversy over allegations of torture and war crimes, as well as association with neo-Nazi ideology. Azov uses controversial symbols, including the Wolfsangel insignia used by divisions of the Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht during World War II.

In March 2015, Andriy Diachenko, a spokesman for the Azov Brigade, told USA Today that 10% to 20% of the group's members are Nazis. A provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, passed by the United States Congress, blocked military aid to Azov due to its white supremacist ideology; in 2015, a similar ban had been overturned by Congress.

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If you look at the map, you will see that road M14 goes closely to Azovstal Combinat. This road is very important for transport between Crimea and Russia. While there are Ukrainian forces in Azovstal, they are a threat to all that go through that road.

As for other connections - bridge and railway. Russia is performing military actions in the south of Ukraine and needs a lot of transport there. Going through Kerch is not viable, it would be an enormous detour. As for sending military transport through rail:

  1. Road transport is much more flexible than rail, especially during war - you have one vehicle that goes directly to destination. In case of rail - you need one truck to go to train, then train takes it somewhere, later another truck takes it to destination.
  2. As you can see on the map, trains from Crimea need to go through controlled by Ukrainians Zaporizhzhia
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    I would welcome information about why mainland access to Crimea from Russia is important, given that there is a rail and road bridge already in place. May 9 at 15:49
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    @reallydismayed, a bridge is rather fragile. A single well-placed bomb could cut Crimea off from Russia.
    – Mark
    May 9 at 23:02
  • The second point is not correct, if you use detailed source such as openrailwaymap.org, there's a rail line which runs from Melitopol towards Donetsk.
    – alamar
    May 10 at 12:49
  • @alamar I'm not good at interpreting this map. How is the part between Велико-Анадоль and Оленівка? Looks like disused track. Is it in good shape? And later the rail goes near Donieck. According to my maps there are Ukrainian forces north and west of Donieck. Is the rail out of reach of artillery, planes and drones? May 10 at 14:02
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    @alamar In long term Azovstal resistance will run out of food and water, unless Mariupol gets recaptured, which seems unlikely now. The point of question, as I understand it, is if there is a reason for continuing assaults instead of waiting. May 11 at 10:08
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That depends.

I am sure there will be a lot of comments pointing to Azov's history, paraphernalia, alleged statements, etc., to support Russia's claim.

I am going to remain neutral on that claim in this answer though in order to answer the actual question as it has been asked

Is there any value for Russians in completely eliminating the Ukrainian resistance at Azovstal, Mariupol?

There is little reason to do if the Azov Regiment (successor to Azov Battalion ) is, in fact, a neo-Nazi organization, as the Russian Federation claims. If Azov members indeed do hold neo-Nazi views, the best way to expose them would be to arrest them and to conduct interviews with them after enough time has passed that the passions of their convictions have diminished.

This was commonly done with former SS and Warmacht officers arrested during WWII. And it gave great insight into how the Nazi Germany became a Nazi regime.

If, however, Azov being a "nazi" organization is a ruse used by the Russian Federation as a yet-another excuse for its unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, then the Russian Federation would greatly benefit from killing them all.

If they can't be interviewed and they can't show who they are to anyone, not even to any professional psychologists or interrogators, then Russia can attribute any views or opinions to them. All it has to do is manufacture some pictures or other "signature unclear" type evidence.

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