Ukrainians escaping from the besieged city of Mariupol along with other passengers from Zaporizhzhia arrive at Lviv, western Ukraine, on Sunday, March 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
``The occupiers are forcing people to leave Ukraine for Russia. Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been taken to the Russian territory,'' the city statement said.
The Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine said Sunday that 2,973 people have been evacuated from Mariupol since March 5, including 541 over the last 24 hours.
The statement by the Mariupol City Council also claimed that cellphones and documents of evacuees have been inspected by Russian troops before sending Mariupol residents to the ``remote cities in Russia.''
Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun told Times Radio that according to the mayor and city council in Mariupol, those citizens are going to so-called filtration camps and ``then they're being relocated to very distant parts of Russia, where they're being forced to sign papers that they will stay in that area for two or three years and they will work for free in those areas.''
The besieged city of Mariupol, which has suffered under heavy Russian forces' shelling, has been cut off from food, water, and energy supplies.