Instead, he ordered his troops to close off the Azovstal plant so that no fly gets through.
Two months of heavy bombardment have reduced Mariupol's strategic southern area to a charred ruin. Now, Russian forces seem to be in control of the city's remaining strategic areas, including its port, which is vital but badly damaged. The Ukrainian troops stubbornly refused to give up.
Putin's remarks came as satellite imagery showed over 200 new graves in a place where Ukrainian officials claim the Russians are burying Mariupol residents who were killed during the fighting. Maxar Technologies' imagery shows rows of graves that extend from a cemetery in Manhush, 20 km (12 miles) away from Mariupol.
According to Russia, a few thousand defenders were held hostage for several weeks in the steel plant. Hundreds of civilians also remained inside the steel plant as Putin's forces repeatedly demanded their surrender.
On Thursday, however, the Russian leader declared victory and did not take the plant. It covers approximately 11 km (4 miles) in area and is interwoven with 24 km (15 miles) of tunnels, bunkers, and other infrastructure.
He said, "The successful completion of the combat work to liberate Mariupol" in an appearance together with his defense minister. "Congratulations."
Russia appears to be planning to hold the siege, rather than launch a frontal assault on the plant. Instead, it will wait for the defenders' surrender when they run out food and ammunition.
The idea of a Russian victory was laughed at by Ukraine.
This means that Azovstal cannot be physically captured. They know this. They suffered enormous losses there," Oleksiy Arastovich, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said.
The Kremlin's largest victory in the war against Ukraine would be the capture of Mariupol. This would allow Moscow to secure more coastline and create a land bridge with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula. Russia took the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It also allows more troops to join the larger battle for Ukraine's eastern industrial center, the Donbas.
"The Russian goal now is not to capture these difficult places where the Ukrainians will hold out in urban centers, but rather to try to capture territory and also to surround the Ukrainian forces and proclaim a huge victory," said Chris Parry, a retired British Rear Adm.
According to military analysts, the Russians maintained heavy air and artillery strikes in the east but didn't appear to gain much ground in the last few days. They were still preparing for a heavier offensive.
Under condition of anonymity, a senior U.S. defense officer said that the Ukrainians were hindering Russia's push south from Izyum.
On Thursday, rockets struck Kharkiv and two civilians were killed in the car. Firefighters tried to extinguish the flames and find anyone trapped in the fire at a school and residential building.
To counter the eastward offensive, the West rushed to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.
U.S. U.S. President Joe Biden announced $800 million more in military assistance to Kyiv. This includes heavy artillery and 144,000 rounds ammunition.
He also warned that $13.6 billion in U.S. Congress funding for humanitarian and military aid was "almost exhausted" last month and that more money will be required.
Sergei Shoigu, Russia's Defense Minister, estimated that 2,000 Ukrainian troops were still at the steel plant. According to Ukrainian officials, there were approximately 1,000 civilians trapped at the steel plant. There were also 500 soldiers wounded. Shoigu claimed that the site was blocked and said it could be taken within days.
Putin replied, "I consider the planned storming of the Industrial Area pointless," stating that he was worried about Russian soldiers.
The Russian leader stated that there is no reason to climb into these catacombs or crawl through these industrial areas. "Block this industrial area to stop any fly from getting through."
Mariupol had a population prewar of 430,000. More than 100,000 people were thought to be trapped without food, water, heat, or medicine.
This city is known for being the site of some of war's worst suffering, including airstrikes on a hospital and theater.
Russia has been repeatedly accused by Ukraine of attacking the city to prevent civilian evacuations. The regional governor stated that at least two Russian terrorist attacks were carried out on Thursday against Zaporizhia, which was a refuge for those fleeing Mariupol. However, no one was hurt.
Russian officials have stated for weeks that the main goal of the war is to capture the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas. Moscow's forces launched the new phase in the war this week, along a 300-mile (408-kilometer) front that runs from Kharkiv in the northeast to the Azov Sea.
Parry stated that "they've realized that if they get held up in these kind of really sticky areas such as Mariupol, then they won't cover the rest of it."
The Defense Ministry of Britain stated that Russia wants to show significant success before Victory Day, May 9, which is the most proud day on the Russian calendar and marks the end of World War II.
The ministry stated that this could impact how forcefully and quickly they try to conduct operations during the period leading up to the date.