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15,000 people illegally deported to Russia from Mariupol, officials say
24 March 2022, 15:28 | Updated: 24 March 2022, 15:40
Around 15,000 people have been subject to "illegal deportation" from the devastated city of Mariupol to Russia, Ukrainian officials have said.
The Russian military forced thousands of civilians out of the city and into Russia, according to officials in Mariupol.
Mariupol council said in a statement: "Residents of the Left Bank district are beginning to be deported en masse to Russia. In total, about 15,000 Mariupol residents have been subjected to illegal deportation."
“It is known that the occupiers . . . are forcing people already exhausted by the war to get on buses. There is also information that the Russian occupiers are confiscating people’s passports and other Ukrainian identity documents.
The council added: "The deported people are first taken to so-called filtration camps, from where they are redistributed to various remote cities in Russia."
The Ukraine secret service are said to have discovered one "filtration camp" in Russia. But, the claims have not yet been independently verified.
Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boychenko said “Ukraine experienced this only during the second world war. Unfortunately, history repeats itself.
"What the Russian occupiers are doing cannot be explained. At first, they blockade a peaceful city, purposefully start killing people, and then forcibly deport them to their territory."
Mariupol has been one of the epicentres of fighting since the conflict in Ukraine began almost two months ago.
The city - normally home to over 400,000 people - has seen weeks of airstrikes and military ground conflict. It is said to have lost access to food, water and electricity as humanitarian access routes have been limited by Russian forces.
The southern port city has been under Russian control since the invasion of the country ordered by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported that buses containing "hundreds of refugees" had been transported to Moscow due to the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a virtual address to Italy's parliament that there was "nothing left" in Mariupol.
Ukrainian authorities are continuing to negotiate with Russia for a safe corridor out of Mariupol for the remaining residents. It is estimated that over 90% of the city's buildings have been damaged by Russian airstrikes.
Peter Maurer, the Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said it would be difficult to evacuate Ukrainians out of Mariupol until an agreement between Russia and Ukraine is reached.
"We think we are confronted with a very complex frontline at the present moment in Ukraine which sees a lot of people trapped and people caught people in between frontlines", he said.
"It's not possible to think about access or evacuation, either in Mariupol or another place, if we don't have a...detailed agreement between the militaries on the ground."