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Maternity patients among 20,000 civilians forcibly deported to Russia, Mariupol says

Olga and Oleksandr hug each other as they wait beside a vehicle adorned with the hand painted word 'volunteers' at an evacuation centre in Zaporizhzhya, on March 29, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. - Olga's father has been stuck in Mariupol. Oleksandr is hoping to get in a volunteer convoy that goes to Mariupol. (Photo by emre caylak / AFP) (Photo by EMRE CAYLAK/AFP via Getty Images)
Olga and Oleksandr hug as they wait beside a vehicle painted with the word "volunteers" at an evacuation center in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Olga's father is stuck in Mariupol, and Oleksandr is hoping to get in a volunteer convoy to the city, now under Russian siege.

Russian forces in Ukraine have forcibly deported the staff and patients of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, sending more than 70 people to Russia, the city council said. It's at least the second hospital to undergo that fate, with more than 20,000 people now sent to Russia against their will, the officials said.

The Russians are confiscating identity documents from people who are taken out of their city, the Mariupol City Council said on its Telegram channel. It says the Ukrainians are being sent to filtration camps and then dispersed around Russia.

Under the Geneva Conventions, it is a war crime for an occupying power to deport people to any other country or territory during an international conflict.

The city council's version of events hasn't been independently verified by NPR or other Western media. On Tuesday, Russia's defense ministry acknowledged it has taken tens of thousands of people out of Mariupol and other parts of eastern Ukraine — but it characterized that action as an evacuation of refugees from a dangerous area.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Russia is returning to tactics last seen during World War II. He added that the city and Donetsk Region Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko are creating a database of deported Ukrainians to ensure they can return.

The Russian tactic has also caused indignation because some people would rather stay in Mariupol rather than be sent to Russia, despite the terrible conditions in the city that's been under siege for weeks, Kyrylenko said in an interview with the independent Belarusian TV channel Belsat.

Thousands of Mariupol residents have fled the city, either in organized humanitarian convoys or in their own vehicles. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday that evacuation routes have been agreed upon for the day, to allow people to leave Mariupol and to bring humanitarian aid to the city.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.