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Ukraine has claimed that Russian forces ‘kidnapped’ thousands of its children from the Donbass region in the country’s east.

“This is not assistance. It is kidnapping,” the US embassy tweeted.

Many child refugees from Ukraine have reached safety in other Eastern European countries but Ukraine officials claim some have been forcibly taken to Russia. (AP)

The accusations came as Russian forces said they were directing civilians towards the Russian-controlled breakaway eastern regions of Donbas.

The kidnapping claims emerged after Mariupol authorities said residents from the city were being taken to Russia against their will by Russian forces.

“Over the past week, several thousand residents have been taken to Russian territory,” the Mariupol City Council said in a statement on Saturday.

“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 that the “fate of the others is unknown.”

Attacks have continued in and around Mariupol as people escaped the battered and besieged port city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of not only blocking a humanitarian convoy trying to take desperately needed aid to Mariupol but seizing what another Ukrainian official said were 15 of the bus drivers and rescue workers on the aid mission, along with their vehicles.

Mr Zelenskyy said the Russians had agreed to the route ahead of time.

Shopping centre shattered in Russian bombing

– Reported with Associated Press

Source: 9News

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