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“Just received information that the occupiers may try to organize their corridor in parallel with us for evacuation to Russia,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk took to Facebook to warn. “So please be careful. Do not surrender to deception and provocation.”
Vereschuk has been working for days to secure an evacuation route from the partially besieged city, but her attempts have repeatedly been foiled by Russian troops.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory over Mariupol this week despite the thousands of civilians and resistance fighters holed up under the city’s Azovstal steel plant.
Invading forces have repeatedly attempted to root out the fighters bunkered deep in the tunnels beneath the plant by alleging they will allow them to live if they voluntarily surrender.
But Vereschuk criticized Russian claims Friday that a separate evacuation route was unnecessary for civilians stuck in the war-torn city.
Additionally, reports have surfaced for weeks that Russian troops are forcibly deporting Ukrainians to camps in Russia.
The deputy prime minister clarified that Kyiv’s organized evacuation routes will head to Zaporizhzhia by way of four additional stops along the Sea of Azov before heading inland.
Zaporizhzhia, which sits directly west of Donetsk above the Sea of Azov, has become a destination for evacuees fleeing the port city of Mariupol in Donetsk.
But on Friday it also became a target of further Russian aggression,
A Ukrainian spokesperson from its Ministry of Defense warned Moscow is looking to annex Zaporizhzhia along with its neighboring region Kherson – which sits directly above the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
Ukrainian officials warned Russia is looking to not only draft a referendum to take over portions of southern Ukraine, but will forcibly conscript Ukrainian men in the regions to “replenish” its personnel losses.