Mariupol says Russia deports thousands of people

Ukraine’s Mariupol city council says Russian forces forcibly expelled several thousand people from the besieged city last week, after Russia spoke of “refugees” arriving from the strategic port.

“Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been deported to Russian territory,” the council said in a statement on its Telegram channel late Saturday.

“The occupiers have taken people from the Livoberezhniy district and from shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) are hiding from the constant bombings. .”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the claims.

The Russian Defense Ministry said buses carrying people it calls refugees from Mariupol began arriving in Russia on Tuesday, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported last week. The ministry was not immediately available to comment on the Mariupol city council statements.

About 400,000 people have been trapped in Mariupol, on the Sea of ​​Azov, for more than two weeks, sheltering from heavy bombardment that has cut off electricity, heating and water supplies in the center, according to local authorities. .

Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Saturday that 13 buses are being transferred to Russia, carrying more than 350 people, of which about 50 will be sent by rail to the Yaroslavl region and the rest to transit centers temporarily in Taganrog, a port city in the Rostov Region of Russia.

The Russian Defense Ministry said this month that Russia had prepared 200 buses to “evacuate” citizens of Mariupol.

The RIA Novosti agency, citing emergency services, reported last week that nearly 300,000 people, including about 60,000 children, have arrived in Russia from the Luhansk and Donbas regions, including from Mariupol, in recent weeks this.

The Russian Defense Ministry said this month that more than 2.6 million people in Ukraine had asked to be evacuated.

Reuters could not immediately verify those reports.

Mariupol, an important connection to the Black Sea, has been targeted since the start of the war on 24 February, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a “special military operation”. to demilitarize and “denuclearize” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West argue that Putin has waged a war of aggression without cause.

As Russia sought to capture most of Ukraine’s southern coast, Mariupol was of great importance, straddling the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula to the west and the Donetsk region to the east, controlled by pro-Russian separatists. part.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)


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