Russian president, Vladimir Putin has been accused of deporting Ukrainians to ‘filtration’ centres before forcibly taking them to remote Siberian towns after confiscating their phones and documents.
‘Several thousand’ people have so-far been taken, Mariupol city council claimed, before being processed through ‘filtration camps’ and sent to ‘remote cities’ in Russia where they will be obliged to stay for years and work for free.
Russian news agencies have reported that buses carrying hundreds of refugees from the besieged southeastern port city Mariupol had arrived in Russia in recent days. Moscow officials also said a trainload of over 280 Ukrainians were being ‘rescued’ from Mariupol, showing footage of them thanking Russian forces.
Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko likened the alleged forced deportations to transportation of prisoners by the Nazi regime during World War II.
Boichenko said: ‘What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people. It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.’
Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev late on Sunday demanded that Ukrainian troops and ‘foreign mercenaries’ in the Black Sea port Mariupol lay down their weapons and surrender in return for letting tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the heavily besieged city leave safely.
Mizintsev said those who laid down their arms and raised white flags would be allowed to leave via ‘humanitarian corridors’. Civilians would then be evacuated afterwards. He gave Ukraine until 5am to respond.
But Mariupol rejected the demands within minutes, with Pyotr Andryushenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol – saying that Russian promises of amnesty could not be trusted and that troops defending the city were determined to fight down to the last man.
Mariupol city hall official Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Sunday that residents of areas under Russian control were being sent to ‘filtration camps’ and that Moscow’s men were ‘checking their phones and seizing their Ukrainian documents’.
US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN the deportation accounts were ‘disturbing’ and ‘unconscionable’ if true but that Washington had not confirmed them.
Thomas-Greenfield added: ‘To force people from Ukraine to go into Russia is abolsutel unacceptable; it’s unconscionable. It’s something we need to confirm, but I don’t put it past the Russians to take such a horrific action.
‘That would be another escalation, but not beyond the realm of possibility given horrible’ Russian pressure on Mariupol has been.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss condemned the ‘abduction and deportation’ of Ukrainians from the besieged city of Mariupol, in a move that has been likened to Nazi Germany.
Truss said she was ‘appalled’ by the reports and vowed for Putin to be ‘held to account’ for his treatment of civilians during the invasion.
The Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine on Sunday said that 2,973 people have been evacuated from Mariupol since March 5, including 541 over the last 24 hours.
Following Russia’s offer of an amnesty in Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk called on Russia to stop ‘wasting time on eight pages of letters’. She said Moscow should open humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave the city instead of using them as bargaining chips.
Vereshchuk told news outlet Ukrainska Pravda: ‘There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this.’ Mizintsev warned of a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ that will be faced by all those who remain behind after Moscow’s deadline for surrender elapsed.