Mariupol refugees subjected to humiliating searches by Russian troops

Survivors of steelwork hell humiliated by Vladimir Putin’s troops: Mariupol refugees were subjected to humiliating interrogation, labelled ‘scum’ and had their underwear checked by Russian soldiers before being freed

  • Evacuees from Mariupol underwent humiliating searches by Russian soldiers
  • Troops checked civilians’ underwear and branded them ‘Ukrainian scum’
  • Around 156 people were saved in a mercy mission at the weekend by Red Cross
  • Survivors have spent over two months holed up in an iron and steel works

Refugees from Mariupol were subjected to a humiliating interrogation by Russian troops before they were finally freed from the steelworks where they had been hiding for two months. 

Exhausted survivors told the Daily Mail they were called ‘Ukrainian scum’, had their underwear checked and were forced to give their fingerprints at a Russian checkpoint before they were allowed to board Red Cross buses. 

Dozens of refugees arriving at a UN aid centre in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia yesterday also gave horrifying accounts of their time cowering in bunkers at the Azovstal steelworks. 

Tonight, there were fears for hundreds of civilians still trapped at the Soviet-era site as Russian bombs rained down in a relentless barrage. 

Around 156 survivors were rescued in a mercy mission at the weekend after the Red Cross managed to secure a ceasefire. 

A man welcomes Mariupol evacuees Anna Zaitseva and her son Svyatoslav, aged six months, at a processing area in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

But it emerged that part of the deal with the Kremlin meant the evacuees had to be ‘screened’ by brutish Russian soldiers at the occupied town of Bezimenne, 30 miles east from Mariupol, before they were released back into Ukrainian-held territory. 

One survivor, Elina Vasylivna, 54, told the Daily Mail: ‘They took our fingerprints, took pictures. My head was spinning. 

‘The militia did a questionnaire and asked us how we feel about the war, about our government. They called us “Ukrainian scum”. 

‘Our phones were taken away and they did a personal examination of our underwear. Our personal belongings were inspected – it was like a totalitarian state.’ 

She said life there was ‘hell’, adding: ‘I would never wish this on my worst enemy in my life. It’s just a horror, a nightmare.’ 

Miss Vasylivna said she hid in a bunker with family members, including her 82-year-old mother. Starving hungry they decided to make a desperate dash to scavenge food from a bombed-out depot near the steelworks. 

Pro-Russian forces fire a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher near an iron and steel works in Mariupol

She said: ‘We went to pick up food from the ground. My son brought back some biscuits which were mixed with cement and glass. But we brushed it off and ate them because we hadn’t seen bread for six weeks.’ 

A 47-year-old woman who came off one of the buses but declined to give her name said: ‘There is no water, no electricity, no gas. Constant bombings, planes. Everything was pouring from the sky. We were in the basement for a month and everything was shaking. The earth shook constantly. 

‘I still have a son there inside Azovstal. My brother died. Now the torture has begun for me. We are just waiting, worried about civilians, about children left behind. All the horror they are going through is very scary.’ 

Anna Zaitseva, who arrived in Zaporizhzhia with her six-month-old son Svyatoslav, said: ‘There was a moment we lost hope, we thought everyone had forgotten about us. We are so thankful for everyone who helped us.’ 

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol

However fears were growing for those left stranded at the steelworks last night. 

Tonight Ukrainian sources said renewed Russian attacks had killed two women at the site. 

Moscow justified its attack by accusing Kyiv of abusing the weekend’s ceasefire to allow hundreds of Ukrainian troops to reinforce their defensive positions at the site. 

Mykhailo Vershynin, head of the Mariupol police force, said Russian troops were ‘storming the plant in several places.’ 

Pascal Hundt, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, also expressed his concern, saying: ‘We would have hoped that many more people would have been able to join the convoy and get out of hell.’

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