The Russian Ministry of Defense has called on Mariupol local authorities to surrender the city to Russian forces, according to Russian state media outlet, RIA Novosti.
The news agency attributed its reporting to comments made by the head of the National Center for Defense Management of the Russian Federation, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev.
“We appeal to the odious bandits, who are responsible for hundreds of lives of innocent people, and now call themselves representatives of the official local authorities, of this unique city Mariupol. We are aware that in the current situation little depends on you, since you are under the full control of nationalist battalions, but we very much hope that you, including the mayor of the city, have at least something human in you left, at least a sense of compassion for the civilians entrusted to you," Mizintsev said, according to RIA Novosti.
The Mariupol City Council said Saturday residents are being taken to Russia against their will by Russian forces.
"Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been taken to Russian territory," the city said in a statement. "The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhny district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing."
Captured Mariupol residents were taken to camps where Russian forces checked their phones and documents, then redirected some of the residents to remote cities in Russia, the statement said, adding the "fate of the others is unknown."
In calling on city officials to surrender, RIA Novosti quoted Mizintsev, saying: "It is you who now have the right to a historic choice – either you are with your people, or you are with bandits. Otherwise the military tribunal that awaits you is only a minor thing that you have already deserved because of the despicable attitude towards your own citizens, as well as the terrible crimes and provocations already arranged by you."
RIA went on to report the Colonel-General said nearly 60,000 residents of Mariupol “found themselves in Russia in complete safety.”
"What the occupiers are doing today is familiar to the older generation, who saw the horrific events of World War II, when the Nazis forcibly captured people," said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko. "It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century people can be forcibly taken to another country.”