Vladimir Putin has been accused of kidnapping nearly 2,500 Ukrainian children from Donetsk and Luhansk and ‘deporting’ them to Russia in scenes reminiscent of ‘Nazi’ transportations.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Russia of ‘abducting’ children using ‘forced displacement’ and warned the alleged deportations ‘are a gross violation of in particular international humanitarian law.’
It comes hours after Moscow was accused by Kyiv’s intelligence agency 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.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry called on the international community to ‘respond to the illegal removal of children’ because depriving children ‘of parental care puts their lives in further jeopardy in Russia’ and warned ‘the perpetuators of these crimes will be brought to justice’.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before he chaired a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels that ‘what’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime. Destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful’.
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.’
Mariupol is in the throes of a humanitarian emergency after being encircled by Russian troops, cut off from energy, food and water supplies and facing a relentless bombardment.
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.
Daria Morozova, of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said that all of those who remained behind would face a military tribunal for ‘all the crimes of the Ukrainian national battalions.’ She said inspectors would be sent into the city once it had been ‘completely cleansed’ by Russian troops.
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.
Vladimir Putin has been accused of kidnapping nearly 2,500 Ukrainian children from Donetsk and Luhansk and ‘deporting’ them to Russia in scenes reminiscent of ‘Nazi’ transportations (pictured, a graveyard in Mykolaiv, Ukraine)
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Russia of ‘abducting’ children using ‘forced displacement’ and warned the alleged deportations ‘are a gross violation of in particular international humanitarian law’ (pictured, Ukrainian children are evacuated by train out of the country to Europe)
City workers dig graves on public land so they can bury civilians and soldiers killed in the Russian bombardment on the city of Mariupol, in the south of Ukraine, on Sunday
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 (pictured, civilians trapped in Mariupol are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists on Sunday)
A man walks along a road past a tank belonging to pro-Russian separatists troops on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol on Sunday
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 (pictured, Ukrainians from Mariupol are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists)
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 (pictured, a civilian gets checked by pro-Russian separatists as he flees the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol)
‘Several thousand’ people have so-far been taken, Mariupol city council claimed, before being processed through ‘filtration camps'(pictured, a civilian gets checked by pro-Russian separatists as he flees the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol)
Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian forces for two weeks, which are now trying to push into the city. If it falls, it would be the biggest city captured by Russian troops so far, and would open up a ‘land corridor’ from rebel-held areas of Donbass to Crimea for reinforcements to pass along
Local residents carry bottles with water as Russia’s invasion continues to take a toll on Ukraine in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
Civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists, through other cities, in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 20
Pro-Russian separatists gave directions to civilians trying to escape the heavily bombarded city of Mariupol
Pro-Putin soldiers were wrapped up against the cold as they allowed civilians to leave Mariupol on Sunday, March 20
Pro-Russian separatists seemed to be carrying out strip-searches on some of the fleeing Ukrainian civilians in Mariupol on Sunday
Civilians trapped in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, which is under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists on Sunday
Mariupol is in the throes of a humanitarian emergency after being encircled by Russian troops, cut off from energy, food and water supplies and facing a relentless bombardment (pictured, civilians flee the city on Sunday)
Mariupol officials have rejected the demands for troops to lay down their weapons in exchange for an amnesty, 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
Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while ‘hundreds’ of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders
Video released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly ‘liberating’ civilians
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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’.
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.
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. She said she was ‘appalled’ by the reports and vowed for Putin to be ‘held to account’ for his treatment of civilians during the invasion.
Meanwhile Russia’s offer of an amnesty was made just hours after a Russian missile strike hit a school sheltering some 400 people, though there was no immediate word on casualties. Last week, Russia had bombed a theatre in the city being used to shelter children – potentially trapping hundreds of people in underground bomb shelters. There is still no word on casualties from that strike either.
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.
Russia and Ukraine have made agreements throughout the war on humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but have accused each other of frequent violations of those.
Meanwhile on Friday feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while ‘hundreds’ of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders.
Video said to have been released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers.
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly ‘liberating’ civilians. The footage emerged as hundreds of people were still feared trapped under the rubble of a theatre in the devastated city. Evacuees have also told of the ‘hell’ they have been subjected to at the hands of Putin’s men.
Refugees walk along a road as they leave the city during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine
Bodies of civilians killed during the Russian bombardment of Mariupol are laid out in a park as they await burial by soldiers defending the city, on Sunday
Local residents take cover as they hear blasts during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
‘Horror’ in Mariupol: A survivor’s account
Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week:
‘Yesterday we left Mariupol under the shelling at our own risk, stayed the night in the field, in the gray zone, did not make it to the curfew, there was frost outside, thank God we are alive. They are alive to scream that everyone who stayed in Mariupol needs help. This is not a city of hero, this is a city of fear, death and horror.
!!!!!! We did not have a humanitarian convoy, no one took us out, there is no city administration in the city, we ran after cars under shelling, united into columns, glued the inscriptions children on the cars. I personally put my own son in the car to the sound of a flying shell in the next yard. No one saved us, we saved ourselves and God.
There is no connection in the city, no water, gas, ambulance, people with torn limbs bleed in the yards and no help, and these are peaceful people, our acquaintances and relatives. The dead are just caught on the spot, and the relatives can’t find them later. Most often, this happens when searching for water, queues at wells or while cooking soup on a fire.
!!!! Yes, we were collecting snow, melting it on a campfire and cooking pasta. My family was in the refuge of high school number two, three days ago a shell flew there, knocked out part of the windows, a woman in her hip was wounded with a scint, she was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed to give her poison so that she would not feel pain, there is no one to take her to the hospital. Every day and every night there are fireworks, whistles, shaking walls and the horror of ‘where will it fly’
The survivor part of the 3rd city hospital works heroically, they are operating, they are saving. this woman was taken by a red cross within a day, may God grant her all is well. Two shells flew into my entrance, two into my yard, and the same man ripped off his leg with the same shell.
My mother Angela and three brothers Roman (16 years old), Vasya (11 years old) Vladislav stayed in the city center for 9 years, at home on the fifth floor. Mother-in-law Lyubov and mother-in-law Anatoly on the ninth floor, opposite the Moscow State University, where the houses to the 9th floor are cut with shackles.
There are almost no shelters in the city, there are not enough, no bunkers with ventilation, at best ground floors, my mom’s house has no one. People need to be taken out, women, children, elderly people, give them buses, green corridor, make an agreement!! I pray for the loved ones, every Mariupolian and Ukrainian soldier. The enemy came to us and left us no choice, but there is nothing more valuable than human life. It needs to end!!!!!!
No food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out of water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores – everything is robbed or burned, the dead are not taken out, the police recommends to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony, and then take them to the house of prayer.
I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. Now I can hear the sound of sirens and I’m not afraid because in Mariupol there was no power for 16 days and when planes were dropping bombs on us, we couldn’t even know it. I beg everyone to stop this!!!!!! If tanks protect the city standing in front of residential houses with people who then burn, then they are not protecting people. I do not understand war strategies, I pray with all my heart for Ukraine, but I do not understand why they destroy my relatives and my city.
I don’t know what will happen next, but I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine and the world, and with no family and mother. A girl who gave birth to a baby in the hospital, where a shell flew in, pregnant, died in the same hospital, failed to give life, mother shaking in fear, covering her son in the hallway of each entrance to the sound of shaking windows, walls and flying shell, old man and, left without a chance to survive, wounded civilians, dying in the streets fighting.
They show you how houses burn, but they don’t show you how people burn. I need to burn myself to make you believe this shouldn’t continue!!!!??? I beg you to stop this. And let your heart choose life
This 21 day changed everyone, everything changed, so much now doesn’t matter and costs nothing, only if everyone left in the Mariupol hell wouldn’t shake in fear and horror
Praying for the people of Mariupol.’
Russian troops had by Friday reached Mariupol city centre and civilians remain hiding in bunkers while fighters battle on the streets. Mariupol Mayor adym Boichenko said: ‘Tanks and machine gun battles continue. There’s no city centre left. There isn’t a small piece of land in the city that doesn’t have signs of war.
Nick Osychenko, the CEO of a Mariupol TV station, said that as he fled the city with six members of his family, aged between 4 and 61, he saw dead bodies on nearly every block.
‘We were careful and didn’t want the children to see the bodies, so we tried to shield their eyes,’ he said. ‘We were nervous the whole journey. It was frightening, just frightening.’
Serhiy Taruta, a Ukrainian politician, said that around 130 people had been rescued from the theatre but hundreds of others are unaccounted for – possibly buried under rubble in one part of the bomb shelter, and cannot be evacuated because rescue services have been destroyed by Russian troops.
‘No one understands. Services that are supposed to help are demolished, rescue and utility services… are physically destroyed. A lot of doctors have been killed. This means that all the survivors of the bombing will either die under the ruins of the theater, or have already died,’ he wrote on Facebook.
Dmytro Gurin, a Ukrainian MP from Mariupol, told the BBC that some people have managed to evacuate but that others are trapped in the shelter and rescuers are struggling to reach them because Russian troops continue to shell it. A rescue mission is underway, he insisted.
Meanwhile survivors of the siege who managed to flee described the city as ‘hell’, saying that people are being left to bleed or burn to death in the streets because doctors cannot reach them and hospitals have been destroyed, with the bodies covered by a thin layer of soil in makeshift burials.
Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday last week, described how she spent days sheltering in a school building – melting snow to cook pasta to eat while living in constant terror of Russian bombs which flew overhead ‘every day and every night’.
She described how a bomb hit the school last week, wounding a woman in the hip with a piece of shrapnel. ‘She was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed for poison so that she would not feel pain,’ Svitlana said. ‘[She] was taken by the Red Cross within a day, I pray to God she is well.’
She added: ‘There is no food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out to get water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores – everything is robbed or burned.
‘The dead are not taken out. Police recommend to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony. I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine, or of the world.’
Russia kept up its bombardment of other Ukrainian cities on Monday, hitting a shopping mall and several apartments in the capital Kyiv in the early hours – reducing the former to rubble. Bombings in the surrounded city of Sumy also hit an ammonia plant, sparking an evacuation.
A huge explosion has rocked a shopping centre in Kyiv as rescuers pulled bloodied victims from the rubble as police said at least eight people had been killed amid fears dozens of others were missing on Sunday night.
The blast smashed the sprawling ‘Retroville’ mall and was so powerful it pulverised vehicles in its car park – leaving a massive crater – as well as bodies scattered in the carnage.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko this morning said it was one of several bombs to be dropped on the city overnight, with others flattening homes. Offices and a gym were also hit.
Rescuers were continuing to trawl through the chaos this morning as they desperately searched for any more survivors of the latest horror attack to rock Ukraine.
Russian forces have increasingly resorted to long-range rocket strikes as their army has stalled. Heavy fighting continues to the north of Kyiv, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Monday, but advances from the north-east have been halted. Attackers in the north-west have been ‘repulsed by fierce Ukrainian resistance’, the ministry added.
Capturing Kyiv remains the ‘primary objective’ of Russia’s invasion and Putin’s men are ‘likely to prioritise attempting to encircle the city over the coming weeks’, the ministry added.
Klitschko said on his Telegram channel: ‘According to the information we have at the moment, several homes and one of the shopping centers [were hit].’ He said ‘rescuers, medics and police are already in place’ and reported ‘at this time – one victim’. It is unclear if he referred to a fatality or injury.
In another post, he said: ‘Rescuers are extinguishing a large fire in one of the shopping centers in the Podolsk district of the capital. All services – rescue, medics, police – work on site. The information is being clarified.’
The burnt-out mall was still smoking on Monday morning. All of its south side had been destroyed, as well as a fitness centre in its car park. Twisted bits of metal and other debris were strewn across the area for hundreds of metres, as firefighters and soldiers searched the devastation for victims.
‘Enemy shelling’ had caused fires on several floors and set several cars ablaze, emergency services said on Facebook. They released security camera footage showing a massive explosion and a mushroom cloud, followed by a series of smaller blasts.
Firefighters pulled at least one man covered in dust from the twisted debris, according to more video released by the emergency services. Soldiers cordoned off the site and told journalists to move back, warning of danger from unexploded munitions without elaborating further.
Neighbours in a housing block whose windows were shattered by the blast said they had seen a mobile rocket launcher near the mall for several days previously.
At least 902 civilians have been killed and 1,459 wounded in Ukraine as of midnight on March 19, the UN human rights office said.
A huge explosion has rocked a shopping centre in Kyiv as rescuers pulled bloodied victims from the rubble as police said at least eight people had been killed amid fears dozens of others were missing on Sunday night
The blast smashed the sprawling ‘Retroville’ mall and was so powerful it pulverised vehicles in its car park – leaving a massive crater – as well as bodies scattered in the carnage
Rescuers work at the site of the shopping mall damaged by an airstrike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv this morning
Firefighters put out the fire at the wreckage of a damaged shopping mall in Podilskyi district of Kyiv following Russian airstrikes overnight on Sunday
Firefighters work at the site of a bombing at a shopping center in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, after it was hit by a Russian missile strike
Ukrainian firefighters and servicemen search for people under debris inside a shopping center after bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday
At least six people were killed in the overnight bombing of a shopping centre in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on Monday (pictured, a Ukrainian service member searches through the rubble for survivors)
Destroyed cars are seen at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv early on Monday
Ukrainian servicemen carry a body at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv as they search for survivors on Monday morning
CCTV has captured an explosion near a shopping centre in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv late on Sunday night
Up to 1,200 people are thought to have been using the theatre as a shelter when Russian bombs struck and completely destroyed it – despite signs saying ‘children’ being clearly visible outside
Rescuers are trying to dig through the rubble to get to the bomb shelters, but the city’s mayor warns the building is still being shelled meaning work is slow and ‘very, very dangerous’
Hundreds of people are feared to be trapped in the underground bomb shelters of Mariupol theatre which was destroyed by a Russian airstrike on Wednesday evening
Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of tanks during Ukraine-Russia conflict on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of tanks during Ukraine-Russia conflict on the outskirts of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol today