Ukrainian civilians in territories occupied by the Russian army are being forced to join the war and fight against their own country, according to a report.
In Donbas, thousands of Ukrainian civilians were forced to enlist in the army following Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s “partial mobilization” order in September, as per independent news agency The Insider.
A similar situation occurred in Melitopol where “men of all ages” were “rounded up in the streets and brought to the commandants’ office for registration,” mayor Ivan Fedorov said in an interview with ICTV.
Fedorov also noted that in the city of Berdiansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukrainian civilians who refused to sign up as volunteer fighters were told to bring one or two men in their stead instead.
In the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, the Russian army sent at least 1,500 draft notices that were handed out in areas primarily inhabited by the Turkic Muslim minority group of Crimean Tatars. The group previously called on Putin to return the land Russia occupied in the war to its “rightful owners.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later warned that Russia is deliberately destroying the Crimean Tatar people by sending them draft notices.
“This is a deliberate attempt by Russia to destroy the Crimean Tatar people, this is a deliberate attempt by the aggressor state to take the lives of as many residents of the territory the Russian troops invaded as possible,” he was quoted as saying by POLITICO.
It is unclear how many Ukrainian citizens in occupied territories were forced to enlist in the Russian military following Putin’s mobilization order.
The report comes as the Ukrainian soldiers attempt to break through Russian defenses in the eastern region of Donetsk as part of their counteroffensive operations. The Russian troops abandoned the city of Kherson last week, allowing the Ukrainian army to liberate the only regional capital Russia captured in the war.
As of Sunday, Ukraine successfully regained control of over 60 regional settlements in Kherson and removed about 2,000 explosive munitions in the territory, Zelensky said in a daily address.