The city council of Mariupol, a besieged port city in Ukraine, accused Russian forces on Thursday, 24 March, of deporting thousands of local civilians to Russia. The statement was made on Telegram.
"Residents of the Left Bank district are beginning to be deported en masse to Russia. In total, about 15,000 Mariupol residents were subjected to illegal deportation. This is about half of all residents who are still in the Left Bank district," the Mariupol City Council stated, as quoted by the Financial Times.
"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 deported people are first taken to so-called filtration camps, from where they are redistributed to various remote cities in Russia," the council added.
The port city of Mariupol is being razed to the ground by Russian forces. It is considered strategically important for three reasons:
It would ensure Moscow's control over the maritime trade along the Azov Sea
A victorious Russia would gain control over more than 50 industrial sites, including two steel factories – Illich Steel & Iron Works and Azovstal.
Ukrainian officials say that such instances are being reported across the country. One such official, Lyudmyla Denisova, asserted that "4,02,000 people, including 84,000 children" had been taken to Russia "against their will," ABC News reported.
They were fed false claims by the Russians about Ukraine's defeat so that they could move to Russia without much resistance.
The Russian authorities have also claimed that around 4,00,000 Ukrainians have been sent to Russia. These people, however, according to Russia, went voluntarily because Ukraine's eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking.
(With inputs from FT and ABC News.)