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Russia is sorting Mariupol 'evacuees' at 'filtration camps,' based on social media posts, Ukrainians say

"In the besieged city of Mariupol, scene of the heaviest fighting in Russia's three-week war on Ukraine, people are now so hungry they are killing stray dogs for food," and "witnesses depicted post-apocalyptic scenes of stray dogs eating the remains of bombing victims who lay unburied on the street," Guy Chazan reports Sunday in the Financial Times. Russian forces are now in every Mariupol neighborhood, fighting Ukrainian defenders block-by-block for control of the strategic port city, Ukrainian officials say.

Residents trapped in the city have been without heat or electricity for weeks, and people are so desperate for drinking water they are draining radiators, melting snow, and scouring parks for streams — or they were, Chazan reports. "The streams also fell out of favor because they quickly became contaminated by corpses." 

"It is hell on earth," Dmytro, a businessman who fled Mariupol last week, told FT. The BBC's Ukraine service showed a few scenes of Mariupol from over the weekend. 

Russian-backed separatists said Sunday they have "evacuated" 2,973 people from Mariupol since Russia started its brutal siege on March 5, but local Ukrainian officials and residents who escaped westward say most people are going unwillingly to Russian-controlled territory. 

Mariupol's city council said on Telegram that Russia has forcibly sent "several thousand" residents to "filtration camps," where their phones and documents are searched before the Ukrainians are sent to remote Russian cities. Russia denied the allegations.

One woman told The Washington Post that Russian troops entered a Mariupol sports hall where her family and other civilians were sheltering and told them to leave, then guided them onto roads into Russian-occupied territory. People arriving in Lviv from Mariupol told The Associated Press that armed Russian guards at the dozens checkpoints out of the city suggested it would be better for them to go instead to Russia or Russian-controlled cities. 

Anna Romanenko, a Ukrainian journalist in close contact with Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, tells the Financial Times that Russian officials first question potential Mariupol evacuees to "test them to see if they are trustworthy" and "check their social media feeds for anything anti-Russian." One of her own friends was sent to Novoazovsk, a Russian-occupied town east of Mariupol, where "they interrogated him, took away his Ukrainian passport, and sent him to Rostov, across the border in Russia," she said, adding that she has not heard from him since.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said what Russia has done in Mariupol amounts to war crimes.