Ukraine: Russia accused of abducting 400,000 civilian ‘hostages’

Ukraine alleges civilians were taken hostage to force president Volodymyr Zelensky to surrender

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 25 March 2022 10:46 GMT

Related: Russian state TV anchor appears to blame Ukrainians for devastation in Mariupol

Moscow has been accused of forcibly deporting more than 400,000 civilians from war-torn Ukrainian cities to Russia as a tactic to pressure president Volodymyr Zelensky into surrendering.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s troops took 420,000 people, including 84,000 children, against their will from bomb shelters, Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, said on Thursday as the war entered its second month.

“We have information that the Russian occupiers are forcibly deporting our citizens from Mariupol, Volnovakha, Stanytsia Luhanska to the Russian Federation. I have testimonies of those people who were taken out, their relatives,” she said.

The Kremlin has provided an identical figure regarding relocations but has claimed that these Ukrainians willingly relocated to Russia. In Ukraine’s rebel-controlled eastern regions, many support close ties with Russia.

“For example, on the left bank of Mariupol, a 92-year-old woman, almost lying down, another 67-year-old woman and her husband were forced to board the bus. They were put on the bus and taken to Taganrog... Agents from Russia’s Federal Security Agency (FSB) worked with them,” Ms Denisova said, according to the Interfax news agency.

She alleged that these “abducted” Ukrainians were first held in filtration camps in Donetsk, and then taken to Russia. Those who had no relatives there were then sent to other filtration camps, she added.

“The occupiers themselves are creating these ‘humanitarian corridors’... They are being taken to Omsk, Tomsk, Sakhalin,” she added.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Kyiv’s allegations come amid other reports of Moscow arbitrarily detaining and enforcing disappearances of Ukrainians in rebel-controlled regions.

The United Nations has verified at least 36 cases of civilian detentions, where their relatives were denied any information about their whereabouts, according to BBC News.

Ukrainian journalist Viktoria Roshchyna, who was reporting from the occupied areas in the country’s eastern region, was abducted by unidentified men on 15 March and released after six days. She was allegedly made to record a “hostage-style video”, where she said Russia had not taken her captive and thanked Putin’s forces for “saving her life”.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least four other journalists with Ukrainian news agency MV were briefly detained in the southeastern Russian-occupied city of Melitopol.

As the war entered the second month on Friday, the United Nations pegged civilian casualties in Ukraine at 1,035. The UN human rights office said at least 90 children were among those killed and 1,650 sustained injuries in the past month of the war.

Ukraine’s navy said it sank a large Russian landing ship near the port city of Berdyansk that had been used to bring in tanks. Moscow on Thursday night fired two missiles at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country. The strikes destroyed buildings and set off two fires, regional emergency services said.

Mr Zelensky in his night-time address to the nation asked Ukrainians to “move toward peace and move forward”.

Additional reporting by agencies

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered.

To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in