Thousands of Mariupol residents have been “forcibly” taken to Russia, the Ukrainian city’s mayor has claimed.
Vadym Boychenko compared the actions of Russian forces to the Nazis capturing and deporting civilians during World War Two.
Sky News could not independently verify the claims.
Other key developments:
• Dozens of soldiers feared dead after attack on Mykolaiv barracks
• Russia fires ‘hypersonic missile’ for first time since invasion
• More than 1,000 people still trapped in bombed theatre
• Extraordinary survival as man rescued after hours under debris
• Boris Johnson claims Putin in a ‘panic’ over revolution in Moscow
Over the past week, the city council said several thousand Ukrainians were illegally removed from the Livoberezhniy district and shelters in the building of a sports club, where more than 1,000 people had been hiding from the constant bombing.
Mr Boychenko said the Ukrainian military had withdrawn from these areas, where fighting took place, to avoid putting civilians at risk.
‘Their fate remains unknown’
“It is known that the captured Mariupol residents were taken to filtration camps, where the occupiers checked people’s phones and documents,” he said.
“After the inspection, some Mariupol residents were redirected to remote cities in Russia; the fate of others remains unknown.
“What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War Two, when the Nazis forcibly captured people.
“It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people would be forcibly deported to another country.
“Not only are Russian troops destroying our peaceful Mariupol, they have gone even further and started deporting Mariupol residents.”
Russia’s defence ministry said busses carrying people it described as refugees from Mariupol started arriving in Russia on Tuesday.
The ministry was not immediately available to comment on the claims.
Russia says refugees are voluntarily going to the country
The Russian TASS news agency reported on Saturday that 13 buses were bringing more than 350 people to Russia, about 50 of whom would be sent by train to the Yaroslavl region.
Russia’s defence ministry said this month it had 200 buses ready to “evacuate” Mariupol residents and that more than 2.6 million people in Ukraine have asked for help to leave.
Russia’s RIA Novasti agency reported last week that nearly 300,000 people, including some 60,000 children, have arrived from the Luhansk and Donbas regions, including Mariupol, in recent weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s siege of Mariupol would “go down in history of responsibility for war crimes”.
“To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” he said in his daily night-time video address to the Ukrainian people.
Some 400,000 people have been trapped in the southern port city for more than two weeks, sheltering from heavy bombardment that has hit the supply of electricity, heating and water, according to local authorities.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said 4,128 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Saturday and taken northwest.
The total number of evacuees throughout the day was 6,623, with eight out of 10 humanitarian corridors used.
Peace talks ‘necessary’
“Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution,” Mr Zelenskyy said. “Moreover, we are interested in peace now.”
He said ongoing negotiations with Russia were “not simple or pleasant, but they are necessary”.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expected its “operation” in Ukraine to end with the signing of a comprehensive agreement on security issues, including Ukraine’s neutral status, according to Interfax news agency.
Kyiv and Moscow had reported some progress in talks last week, but Mr Zelenskyy has so far refused to rule out joining NATO – a longstanding Russian demand.
At least 847 Ukrainian civilians have been killed so far in the war, including 64 children, the UN said, but added that “the actual toll is much higher”. The number of civilians injured is at least 1,399.
The bodies of at least 50 Ukrainian soldiers were also recovered after a military base was attacked by Russia on Saturday in the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Up to 200 troops were thought to have been inside the barracks when they were targeted.
For the first time in the conflict Russia said it had used hypersonic missiles, which destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
The weapons can travel faster than five times the speed of sound and their deployment could signal an escalation in the conflict.
However, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Saturday night that Russia has failed to gain control of Ukrainian airspace, significantly blunting their progress.