Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcibly removing more than 400,000 people from destroyed Ukrainian cities to Russia, to be used as bargaining chips.
Ukrainian ombudsperson Lyudmyla Denisova said that hundreds of thousands, including 84,000 children, may be used as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to surrender.
Reports emerged earlier in the week that the Russian army has been “abducting and deporting” Ukrainians from the besieged city of Mariupol to remote regions to work.
A Ukrainian MP claimed that civilians were being forced to relocate to “distant parts of Russia” to work in conditions akin to slave labour.
UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, said she was “appalled” by the reports and vowed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be “held to account” for his treatment of civilians during the invasion.
It follows several attempts, with most failing, to create so-called ‘humanitarian corridors’ where Ukrainian civilians could pass through into Russia to escape the conflict, in cities such as Mariupol.
Civilians were also being taken to Belarus, Russia’s Interfax Agency reported at the time, via buses.
The city of Mariupol has been suffering severe food and water shortages, and a major electricity outage, after being encircled by Russian troops.