Ukrainian troops, thought to be the last fighting Russian forces in Mariupol, have been told to stop the defence of the city.
Reuters news agency reported the Azov regiment had been ordered only to “save lives of soldiers” in the port – a key military objective for Vladimir Putin, which has been under bombardment for weeks.
The regiment says civilians and badly wounded soldiers have been evacuated from Mariupol’s Azovstal plant, while those who have died there are still being removed, according to a video statement from Denys Prokopenko, commander of the regiment.
“We have constantly emphasised the three most important conditions for us: civilians, wounded and dead,” he said.
“The civilians have been evacuated. The heavily wounded received the necessary assistance and they were evacuated, to be later exchanged and delivered to territory controlled by Ukraine.”
He added that in the future he hoped relatives would be able to “bury their soldiers with honour”.
Mariupol has been a key target for Putin since the war began and the city has been devastated after coming under a barrage of attacks.
At one point, it was estimated thousands sheltered underneath the plant, including hundreds of civilians, and there have been multiple evacuations underway in recent weeks.
Before the war, Mariupol had a population of about 400,000, but this has fallen dramatically to less than a quarter of the original population, with those remaining facing a daily struggle with severe shortages of food, clean water, and electricity.
Aid has not been able to reach the city and evacuating civilians has been extremely difficult.
Taking the strategically-important port city would give Russia its first major success in a war that has seen its military fail to gain the upper hand against ferocious Ukrainian defence.