Russian forces bomb an art school in Mariupol where 400 people have taken refuge

Authorities in the Ukrainian town of Mariupol say Russian troops forcibly deported several thousand residents to Russia, amid reports that Russian forces bombed an art school in the town where 400 people had taken refuge.

“Over the past week, several thousand residents of Mariupol have been deported to Russian territory,” the city council said in a statement on its Telegram channel on Saturday.

“The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy neighborhood and the shelter to the building of the sports club, where more than a thousand people [mostly women and children] hid from the constant shelling.

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

In a statement on the Mariupol Council and Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada Telegram channels on Sunday, the council said women, children and the elderly were inside and “are still under the rubble” of the building. Destroyed G12 Art School in the Left Bank District of Mariupol.

Piotr Andryushchenko, assistant to the city’s mayor, said Russian forces took “between 4,000 and 4,500 residents of Mariupol by force across the border to Taganrog”, a city in southwestern Russia. Residents were taken away without their passports, Andryushchenko said.

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

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

“Children, old 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 Friday that has been authenticated by The Associated Press.

He then addressed himself directly to the American and French leaders. “You promised there will be help, give us that help. Biden, Macron, you are great leaders. Be them until the end.

The message accused the Russians of committing war crimes, echoing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s previous video speech, in which he said of the attacks on Mariupol: “Do this to a peaceful city. . . is a terror that will be remembered for centuries.

street fights

Intense street fighting in the city hampered attempts to free hundreds of survivors trapped for days in a bombed-out theater as Ukrainian forces resisted a larger Russian force inside the strategically important southern port city .

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

Across Ukraine, city evacuations continued on Saturday along eight of 10 humanitarian corridors, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. A total of 6,623 people were evacuated, including 4,128 from Mariupol, the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war.

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

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

The Russian Defense Ministry said this month that more than 2.6 million people in Ukraine had asked to be evacuated, a claim that has not been independently verified.

China

Meanwhile, China reacted angrily to growing pressure from the West to condemn the invasion, saying it stood on the right side of history in the face of the crisis and was in line with the positions of most countries.

“China will never accept any external coercion or pressure, and opposes any unfounded and suspicious accusation against China,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday evening.

China has declined to condemn Russia’s action in Ukraine or call it an invasion, although it has expressed concern over the crisis. Beijing has also opposed economic sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, describing them as unilateral and not authorized by the UN Security Council.

Wang’s comments came after US President Joe Biden warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday of the “consequences” if Beijing provided material support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We have always stood for maintaining peace and opposing war,” Wang said, reiterating that China will make independent judgments. “China’s position is objective and fair, and meets the wishes of most countries. Time will prove that China’s claims are on the right side of history.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged leaders in Beijing to come out of the fence and join in global condemnation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“As time goes on and the number of Russian atrocities increases, I think it becomes more and more difficult and politically embarrassing for people, actively or passively, to tolerate Putin’s invasion,” he said. Johnson.

“There are now considerable dilemmas for people who thought they could sit on this one, who thought they could sit on the fence. And, yes, I think in Beijing you are starting to have doubts.

China, however, showed no signs of changing its position. On Saturday, his deputy foreign minister, Le Yucheng, called Western sanctions against Russia increasingly “outrageous”.

The also acknowledged Moscow’s stance on NATO, saying the alliance should not expand further east and force a nuclear power like Russia “into a corner”.

“Sanctions against Russia are becoming more and more outrageous,” Le told a security forum in Beijing, adding that Russian citizens were being deprived of overseas assets “for no reason.”

The fall of Mariupol, a key link to the Black Sea, would mark a major breakthrough for the Russians, who have been largely bogged down outside major cities for more than three weeks in the biggest ground invasion in Europe since World War II. – Guardian

Kayleen C. Rice