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KYIV: The city of Mariupol on Wednesday denounced the forced evacuation to Russia of a maternity hospital from the besieged southeastern city, where another such facility was bombed by Russian forces on March 9.

“More than 70 people, women and medical personnel from maternity hospital No. 2 from the left bank district were taken by force by the occupiers,” the mayor’s office said on its Telegram channel.

More than 20,000 of Mariupol residents have been taken “against their will” to Russia, where their identity documents were confiscated and before they were moved “to Russian cities far away,” the office said.

The information could not be independently verified as Mariupol has been under siege and intense bombardment since the end of February and communication largely cut off.

Mariupol mayor fears humanitarian catastrophe, says city must be completely evacuated

Another maternity hospital in Mariupol was struck by Russian bombardment on March 9, sparking international condemnation. At least three people including one child died in the attack.

Russian officials both dismissed the attack as being staged by Ukraine and justified it by claiming the hospital was being used by extremist Ukrainian forces and that all medical personnel and patients had long been gone.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday called the Russian siege of Mariupol a “crime against humanity”.

Meanwhile the Kremlin has for the time being rejected a proposal by France, Turkey and Greece to carry out a humanitarian aid mission to the city, insisting that Ukrainian troops lay down their arms first.

Around 160,000 civilians are estimated to still be trapped in the city where fierce fighting and bombardment have created infernal conditions.

Civilians who have made it out have told AFP that they had lived for weeks in basement bomb shelters without electricity and with shortages of food and water.

At least 5,000 people are estimated to have died in the city since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

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