Authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, scene of some of the fiercest fighting since Russia launched its invasion in the country, have claimed that thousands of the city’s residents have been forcibly removed by troops and taken to Russia.
Mariupol was one of the first cities attacked by Vladimir Putin when he launched his invasion on February 24th, and has been effectively under siege since the start of March. Numerous organizations have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis as food and water supplies run out in the city and attempts to evacuate some 200,000 residents largely fail.
Now in an extremely concerning development multiple sources say that as many as 4,500 of the cities residents have been removed, forcibly taken to Russia by the occupying forces.
“Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents were deported on to the Russian territory,” the city council said in a statement posted to its Telegram channel.
“The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing.”
Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko compared the actions of Russian troops to those of the Nazis during World War II.
“It is known that the captured Mariupol residents were taken to filtration camps, where the occupiers checked people’s phones and documents,” he said.
“After the inspection, some Mariupol residents were redirected to remote cities in Russia; the fate of others remains unknown.
“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War Two, when the Nazis forcibly captured people.
“It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people would be forcibly deported to another country.”
Pyotr Andryuschenko, Mr. Boychenko’s assistant, told The New York Times that 4,000 to 4,500 residents had been taken in total, and were believed to be being taken to the Russian city of Taganrog.
The claims made by authorities appear to be corroborated by the handful of residents that have managed to flee the city amidst raging street battles between Russian and Ukrainian troops.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk confirmed that a further 4,128 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Saturday, amongst 6,623 people evacuated in total via humanitarian corridors across the country.
With an estimated 400,000 still trapped inside the city though, there is a long way to go with evacuation efforts.