Report: Russian Forces Bomb Mariupol Art School Where 400 People Were Taking Shelter, Thousands Deported To Russia

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Authorities in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol have said Russian troops have forcibly deported several thousand residents to Russia, as reports emerged that Russian forces bombed an art school in the city where 400 people were taking shelter.

“Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents were deported onto the Russian territory,” the city council said in a statement on its Telegram channel late on Saturday.

“The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people [mostly women and children] were hiding from the constant bombing.”

The claims have not been independently verified, but the council’s statement is one of several reports about Mariupol residents being taken to Russia, where authorities have referred to “refugees” arriving from the strategic port.

In a statement posted Sunday on the Telegram channels of Mariupol council and the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada, the council said women, children, and elderly people were inside and “are still under the rubble” of the destroyed G12 art school in Mariupol’s Left Bank district.

Pyotr Andryushchenko, an assistant to the city’s mayor, said Russian forces had taken “between 4,000 and 4,500 Mariupol residents forcibly across the border to Taganrog”, a city in southwestern Russia. The residents had been taken without their passports, Andryushchenko said.

A Ukrainian police officer in Mariupol warned that it had been “wiped off the face of the earth”, and pleaded with the US and France to supply the country with a modern air defense system.

In a video appeal from a street strewn with rubble, Michail Vershnin publicly reminded Biden and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, that they had promised assistance “but what we have received is not quite it”, and urged them to save the civilian population.

“Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it has been wiped off the face of the earth,” Vershnin said, speaking in Russian in the video filmed on Friday that has been authenticated by the Associated Press.

He then appealed directly to the US and French leaders. “You have promised that there will be help, give us that help. Biden, Macron, you are great leaders. Be them to the end.”

The message accused the Russians of committing war crimes, echoing Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s earlier video address, in which he said of the attacks on Mariupol: “To do this to a peaceful city . . . is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.”

Street fighting
Intense street fighting in the city has hampered attempts to free hundreds of survivors trapped for days inside a bombed theatre as Ukrainian forces held out against a larger Russian force inside the strategically important southern port city.

Jakob Kern, the World Food Programme’s emergency coordinator, described Russia’s tactic of preventing emergency food supplies to Mariupol as “unacceptable in the 21st century”. Ukrainian MP Dmytro Gurin described conditions in the city as “medieval”.

Across Ukraine, evacuations from cities continued on Saturday along with eight of 10 humanitarian corridors, said the deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk. A total of 6,623 people were evacuated, including 4,128 from Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering.

Russian media have offered a very different explanation for the reported removal of Mariupol residents. The Tass news agency reported on Saturday that 13 buses were moving to Russia, carrying more than 350 people, about 50 of whom were to be sent by rail to the Yaroslavl Region and the rest to a temporary transition center
s in Taganrog, a port city in Russia’s Rostov region.

RIA Novosti agency, citing emergency services, reported last week that nearly 300,000 people, including some 60,000 children, had arrived in Russia from the Luhansk and Donbas regions, including from Mariupol, in recent weeks.

Russia’s defense ministry said this month that more than 2.6 million people in Ukraine have asked to be evacuated, a claim that has not been independently verified.