Media reports say Russia's Defense Ministry has told the Ukrainian forces still fighting in the besieged southern port of Mariupol to lay down their arms starting 6 a.m. Moscow time on Sunday, April 17 to save their lives.

Russia says its troops have cleared the urban area of the key city of Mariupol and only a small contingent of Ukrainian fighters remained inside a steel factory in the besieged southern port.

Mariupol will be the first major city to have fallen to Russian forces since Moscow claimed to have total control of Kherson last month.

“The entire urban area of Mariupol has been completely cleared … remnants of the Ukrainian group are currently completely blockaded on the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant,” Igor Konashenkov, a chief spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Defense, said.  

Konashenkov said 1,464 Ukrainian servicemen have already surrendered “in the course of liberation of Mariupol.”

According to Al-Jazeera, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy threatened to withdraw from the continuing peace negotiations with Russia if Ukrainian fighters trapped in the port city are killed.

“There are troops there who absolutely hate them, and I don’t think they will let them live,” the Ukrainian leader said, referring to the fact many of the fighters in Mariupol are part of the far-right Azov Battalion, Al-Jazeera said.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow yesterday that the Ukrainian side has picked Gomel, a city in Belarus, as a venue for talks with Russia.

Russia will not suspend the military operation in Ukraine during the talks with the Ukrainian side, Peskov was cited a s saying by TASS.   

Earlier on Sunday Kremlin Spokesman said that the Russian delegation had arrived in Belarus for talks with the Ukrainian side as agreed. The delegation consists of representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and other Russian departments, including President’s administration, headed by Russian Presidential Aide Vladimir Medinsky.