With half of Mariupol’s population having managed to evacuate, Russian troops have forcibly relocated 20,000-30,000 residents to Russia or Russia-occupied territories, the city’s mayor Vadym Boychenko told Ukrainian news agency UNIAN on March 27.
“As of now, 50% of our 540,000 residents have been evacuated,” Boychenko said.
According to the mayor, around 140,000 people left Mariupol at the outbreak of the war, while the roads were clear and the railway was still in operation. Another 100,000 left afterwards, while volunteers’ efforts secured safe passage along tentative humanitarian corridors for 60,000 people.
Nevertheless, there are still people in dire need of evacuation around the city.
“We’ve been trying to establish evacuation routes since the sixth day of the war,” said the mayor.
“But Russian troops are doing everything they can to make sure there are no buses left in Mariupol; 150 new buses have been reduced to ashes.”
Crucially, between 20,000 to 30,000 residents were taken by the Russians to occupied areas, or into Russia itself.
“It’s unclear why they are doing this; For example, one of my neighbours called me, and said he was forcibly relocated: he went out to get water, and was taken away,” Boychenko said.
“Now he’s in occupied Novoazovsk; others are being taken to Russia.”
“People are loaded into trains, and then they arrive in Tomsk (Russia); the logic of these moves is not apparent.”
Boychenko added that people are terrified of talking about what’s happening to them. Some don’t have access to their phones and IDs.
Relocated residents of the city are being processed en masse at school grounds.
“Those deported from Mariupol aren’t treated well; I know for a fact that they are being processed and registered,” the mayor told UNIAN.
“People are being herded into a school, where they are left to sit and wait.”
“The Russians are no different from the (Nazi) fascists: the very same concentration camps, just like in 1941; everything is being done as if by Goebbels’ playbook.”