The besieged port city in Ukraine’s south has been under horrendous Russian bombardment for weeks. Mariupol is an important prize for Putin, as it would allow the Russians to create a land corridor from Luhansk to Donetsk and down to Crimea. For Moscow, the land corridor would also secure control of the Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov.
Mariupol’s city council claimed that thousands of its residents had been rounded up by Russian forces and taken to Russia.
The Kyiv Independent newspaper tweeted: “Mariupol council: Russian occupiers forcibly move thousands of Mariupol residents to Russia.
“The civilians were allegedly taken to camps where Russians checked their phones and documents and then forcibly moved some of them to remote cities in Russia.”
Linda Li, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a Joe Biden delegate, said: “Russian army forcibly moved Mariupol residents to camps in remote cities in Russia.
“Looks like Putin is bringing back concentration camps or even the gulag.”
Ms Li also blasted the EU for its oil dependency on Russia, which she said was helping Moscow’s war aims.
She wrote: “EU has spent $16 BILLION on Russian oil since the war
“The blasted truth is that our allies are funding Putin’s genocide.”
The US ambassador to the United Nations told CNN that she found the reports of the deportations “disturbing” and “unconscionable” if true.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the programme State of the Union: “I’ve only heard it. I can’t confirm it.
“But I can say it is disturbing. It is unconscionable for Russia to force Ukrainian citizens into Russia and put them in what will basically be concentration and prisoner camps.”
READ MORE: Ukraine president warns of World War 3 if last ditch attempts fail
The Russian army has deliberately targeted civilian dwellings in desperate attempts to force the city’s surrender.
Latest estimates say that over 2,500 people have died during the indiscriminate shelling – including those sheltering at a theatre and art school.
The entrapped citizens face starvation and death, according to aid charities.
The International Red Cross said last week: “Hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents are now facing extreme or total shortages of basic necessities like food, water and medicine.”
The United Nations estimates more than three million people have fled the country since Russian forces invaded on February 24.