Vast swathes of the Azovstal steel plant are now in ruins (Picture: Reuters)

Aerial photographs have revealed the damage done to Mariupol steelworks after weeks of shelling from Russian forces.

Ukraine ordered the last unit defending the Azovstal Steelworks to stand down last Monday with Russian forces finally claiming full control of the sprawling industrial complex on Friday.

The plant became Ukraine’s last holdout in Mariupol with the fighters defending it becoming a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity in face of Russian aggression.

The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of Ukrainian soldiers being detained at the site after claiming victory.

It said a total of 2,439 Ukrainians had surrendered, however, there are now fears for their safety.

Family members of the fighters, who came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned home. 

Among the defenders of the Azovstal plant were members of the Azov Regiment, whose far-right origins have been seized upon by the Kremlin as part of its effort to cast the invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.

What was once an administrative building at Azovstal steelworks but is now just ruins (Picture: Reuters)

Many buildings near the plant have been left in ruins (Picture: Reuters)

The unit, formed in 2014 as a militia to fight Russian-backed separatists, denies being fascist, and Ukraine says it has been reformed from its radical far-right origins.

The group held out in the plant for weeks, using the site’s seven-mile-long network of subterranean tunnels to shelter from Russian missiles.

Putin’s forces were seen moving into the steel plant clearing the site of debris and checking for mines following the Ukrainian’s surrender.

Russian soldiers walked through the compound and swung mine detectors over roads littered with debris, while others checked under objects for the explosive devices, video footage showed.

Drone images show the scale of destruction at Azovstal Iron and Steel Works (Picture: Reuters)

The devastation caused by almost three months of fighting in Mariupol (Picture: Reuters)

Russian forces have moved into the Azovstal steel plant and have started clearing it of mines (Picture: Reuters)

‘The task is huge, the enemy planted their own landmines, we had also planted anti-personnel mines while blocking the enemy,’ said a Russian soldier who only gave his nom de guerre Babai.

‘So we’ve got some two weeks of work ahead of us.’

Sunday’s operation saw mines detonated in controlled explosions and debris cleared from the steelworks’ roads using military bulldozers emblazoned with the letter ‘Z’.

Meanwhile, drone footage revealed the devastation wreaked by weeks of heavy bombardment with the steelworks’ buildings left in ruins, charred, partially collapsed or just a pile of debris.

‘Over the last two days, over a 100 explosives have been destroyed. The work continues,’ Babai added.

Full control of Mariupol gives Russia command of a land route linking the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists.

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