Volodymyr Zelenskyy: half a million Ukrainians sent to Russia

'They are sent to remote regions of foreign lands, remote regions of Russia,' he said

A bus carrying civilians removed from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine. Reuters

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More than 500,000 Ukrainians have been sent to Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday.

He told Iceland’s Parliament that the Ukrainians “are sent to remote regions of foreign lands, remote regions of Russia” and there have been attempts to assimilate them by force.

Mr Zelenskyy said the measure was part of a Russian strategy to deny Ukraine’s right to exist.

“More than 500,000 of our people have already been deported to Russia,” he said.

“They were forced to go there. Everything was taken away from them: documents, means of communication. They are sent to remote regions of foreign lands, remote regions of Russia. There is an attempt to assimilate them there by force.”

Mr Zelenskyy has made numerous appeals to foreign parliaments throughout the conflict.

“It is obvious that Russia’s war against Ukraine is not just an attempt to seize one country and destroy life in it,” he said on Friday.

“No. This is an encroachment on freedom — as such, that is why it is important for all free people of the world that our country is not left alone in the confrontation with Russia.”

In Ukraine, dozens of civilians were rescued from tunnels under the besieged steel plant in Mariupol where Ukrainian forces have been making a last stand to prevent Moscow’s complete takeover of the strategically important port city.

Ukrainian and Russian officials said 50 people were removed from the Azovstal steel plant and handed over to representatives from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Russian military said the group included 11 children.

Russian officials and Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said evacuation efforts would continue on Saturday. The latest evacuees were in addition to 500 other civilians who had escaped from the plant and city in recent days.

About 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in the vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the steelworks.

Updated: May 07, 2022, 4:19 AM