Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that the southeastern port city of Mariupol has been destroyed completely and there is nothing left to fall to Russians, except for its besieged steelworks.
Zelenskyy, speaking on a video call to the Chatham House think-tank in London, was asked how the fall of the strategic city could affect the course of the conflict.
"You should understand that Mariupol will never fall. There is nothing there to fall apart. It is already devastated... there is no structure. This is all destroyed completely," Zelenskyy said in comments translated into English from Ukrainian.
What is left is "this little turf, this little structure, the Azovstal steel mill, or what remains of it", he added.
The Mariupol steelworks are the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance against Russian forces in the port city, where about 200 civilians are estimated to still be trapped in tunnels and bunkers.
Ukrainian troops defending the plant on Friday accused Russian forces of firing during a civilian evacuation, despite a Moscow-imposed ceasefire.
Zelenskyy said "people are being evacuated as much as we can".
"If they kill people who can be exchanged as POWs or just released as civilians or be helped as wounded or injured, civilian and military alike, if they destroy them, I don't think we can have any diplomatic talks with them after that," he added.
"Speaking in the military sense, they will proceed to the point when we stop them," he predicted of Russian troops' actions after taking control of the city.
He also referred to Russian plans to hold a victory parade in Mariupol on May 9, a holiday commemorating Soviet victory over Nazis.
"I understand that Russia would like to have a parade for the Victory Day, the ninth of May," he said.
The Kremlin denied such a plan on Friday.
Zelenskyy condemned the Russian military for "torturing to death" civilians in Mariupol, blaming the Kremlin's propaganda machine for fomenting the hatred that made this possible.
"I think (Nazi chief propagandist Joseph) Goebbels is a child in comparison with the adults in the Kremlin. And this is the scariest thing that we learn from this war," he said.