Ukrainian soldiers at the Azovstal steel mill in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol have “fulfilled their mission”, after more than 200 servicemen were evacuated from the area, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said Tuesday.

Russia, however, said the soldiers were now prisoners, having “laid down their arms and surrendered".

In a statement, Ukraine’s military high command said the Mariupol garrison had “fulfilled its combat mission” and it had ordered the “commanders of the units stationed in Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel" who were dug in there for several weeks surrounded by Russian forces.