Tuesday, Ukraine praised the defenders of the critical city of Mariupol as heroes who altered the course of the war with Russia by withstanding an 82-day siege and bombing by Russian soldiers.
More than 250 combatants, some severely injured, were rescued after spending weeks in bunkers and tunnels beneath the massive Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where they had limited access to food, water, medicine, and other supplies.
Their disobedience prevented Russia from releasing troops to fight on other fronts, which, according to Kyiv, helped Ukrainian forces repel Russian advances elsewhere.
"The effort to conquer the east and south (of Ukraine) was delayed by 82 days because Mariupol attracted Russian Federation forces. It altered the war's trajectory "presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak remarked.
Russia will have command of an overland route connecting the peninsula of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, with the Russian mainland and pro-Russian separatist-held territories of eastern Ukraine if it fully controls Mariupol.
However, while Russian soldiers were engaged in the Mariupol offensive, their military operation stalled elsewhere.
President Volodymyr Zelensky called the defenders of Mariupol heroes who must be preserved. The Ukrainian military declared them "heroes of our time."
The General Staff of the Armed Forces posted on Facebook that the defense of Azovstal and Mariupol prevented Russia from moving approximately 20,000 troops to fight in other regions.
We gained crucial time to replenish our reserves, reorganize our forces, and obtain assistance from our allies.
According to Ukraine, Mariupol is believed to have murdered tens of thousands of people. The mayor has compared the city to a "medieval ghetto" since it has become an "urban wasteland."
The Azov Regiment, which Russia has characterized as a bunch of Russia-hating neo-Nazis, commanded the final defense of Mariupol. Tuesday, some combatants remained in the steel facility.
Kyiv asserts that the Azov militia has been absorbed into Ukraine's National Guard - a military component of the interior ministry - and that it has been transformed away from its radical nationalist roots and has no political ties.
Tuesday, a Russian senator called for the execution of the evacuated Mariupol warriors, highlighting the disparate views of the Mariupol fighters held in Russia and Ukraine.