MOSCOW, March 29. /TASS/. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has castigated Western media reports that the Russian military was forcibly transporting Mariupol residents to Russia as complete fabrications.
"I can say that this a lie," Peskov stated in response to requests to comment on reports emanating from Ukraine and the West about Ukrainian citizens being coerced to relocate from Mariupol to Russia. "Russia is not doing this. Such reports that Russia is forcibly transporting people are lies," the Kremlin spokesman stressed.
He highlighted the fact that "citizens are not forcibly transported to Russian territory." "This is not true," Peskov added noting that all city’s residents arrived at their own accord. The press secretary stressed that "Russian servicemen help civilians leave Mariupol, and leave dangerous areas." "They [military personnel] are rendering assistance, despite the fact that it is common knowledge that these people are in peril when trying to leave these localities, because they are simply shot in the back. These facts have been corroborated by a large number of first-hand accounts from eyewitnesses," he concluded.
The Russian defense ministry said earlier that four convoys of 200 buses had been organized to evacuate people from Mariupol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 launched a special operation in Ukraine in response to a request for help from the leaders of the Donbass republics. He stressed that Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukrainian territories. Its sole aim, Putin emphasized, is to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.