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A Ukrainian lawmaker on Sunday claimed that Russian forces were forcibly deporting civilians – including children – in the besieged city of Mariupol to Russia.
“They have pulled these people from Mariupol,” Ukrainian MP Yevheniia Kravchuk told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “This is something that can not happen in the 21st century.”
The comments came when Kravchuk gave an update on the humanitarian disaster in Mariupol. She claimed that Russia did not respect a humanitarian corridor that would have allowed civilians to flee the city unscathed.
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“They are trying to make forced deportations to Russian territory from Mariupol. They are taking people – they are even taking children who have lost their parents and they are sending them to Vladivostok,” Kravchuk said, referring to the far-eastern Russian city about 6,000 miles away. “We do not know how to bring them back to Ukraine.”
Kravchuk said Ukrainians are being put through “filtration camps” where Russian troops separate the men in the hunt for Ukrainian soldiers.
“We really hope that with the help of other Western leaders, other leaders of the (civilized) world, we will be able to save children and women who are still in the basement of the massive Azovstal facility.”
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Mariupol has been a major Russian target since the February 24 invasion began. Conquering the city would allow the establishment of a land corridor from Russia’s border to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. It would also deprive Ukraine of a large port and valued industrial assets. The majority of neon used in advanced microprocessors, for example, comes from companies based in Mariupol.
Since the battle for the city began on March 1, the Russian military has relentlessly hit Mariupol with artillery barricades and airstrikes that have leveled most of the once bustling city. The random bombing has hit homes, hospitals and other public buildings, killing thousands.
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Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko estimates that at least 21,000 people were killed in Mariupol and another 120,000 people are left in Mariupol out of a pre-war population of about 450,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.