The Russian military has deported nearly 40,000 Ukrainians from Mariupol to Russia, according to the mayor of Mariupol.
Those who have faced such realities have been sent to Russia or the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said during a briefing at the Ukraine-Ukrinform media center on Tuesday.
"We have already verified the lists of those who were deported from Mariupol to Russia or the so-called DPR. Almost 40,000 people. Now they have begun to hide these lists. Unfortunately, we are not able to verify everything at the moment, but we are continuing the work," he explained, according to CNN.
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The Russian military has put a large emphasis on capturing the besieged city of Mariupol because of its strategic location. The port city is near the southeast border along the coast of the Sea of Azov, and should Russia capture the town, it would have access from the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and the contested Donbas region, where fighting has been ongoing since that year as well.
Hundreds of civilians have been hiding at a steel plant in Mariupol and have been trapped for weeks. About a hundred were able to evacuate earlier this week, but hundreds remain, and attacks continue occurring.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe released a report in mid-April that alleged Russian troops had deported approximately 500,000 civilians from Ukraine to Russia, where they then were brought to “filtration camps in Russia near the Ukrainian border.”
This statistic was attributed to the Human Rights Ombudsperson of the Ukrainian Parliament.
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The investigators noted that “if (some of) these deportations where forcible (including because Russia created a coercive environment in which those civilians had no other choice than to leave Russia) and as they necessarily concern civilians who had fallen into the power of Russia as an occupying power, this violates in each case [international humanitarian law] and constitutes a war crime.”