Chilling: Russia forcefully deporting thousands of Mariupol residents into the interior of Russia?

One of the biggest problems for the West with Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is that no one knows what the end game is.

The broad outline suggests that he wants to reunite Russia and Ukraine for historic reasons, and is attempting to achieve that by bombing the latter into submission. But whether that's all he has in mind is unclear. Does he want Ukraine to just be neutral and stay out of NATO? Does he want territory to annex? Does he want just some of Ukraine's territory or all of it? Does he want other countries, too? Will he stop at the NATO line, or move into it? Why is he targeting civilians? How does he plan to deal with an angry Ukrainian population which remains unbowed and still willing to fight?

The only thing Putin seems to be saying is 'watch what I do.' And right now, he's escalated his war against Ukraine with an unprecedented use of terrifying hypersonic missiles against civilians, as Thomas Lifson noted here

There's another disturbing report from Reuters, culled from local press reports, that the end game may well be what Stalin and the Russian tsars engaged in, which was to deport millions of people into the Russian and Siberian interior.

Longtime Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart tweeted this:  

Which is pretty redolent of the mass deportations to Siberia, often to the Gulags, that Stalin enacted against various restive populations throughout the Soviet empire -- the Chechens, the Kalmyks, the Circassians, the Jews, the ethnic Germans, the Crimean Tatars, the Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians... all of these peoples were deported to Siberia, to work in the salt and nickel mines, to dig train tracks, to become the walking dead of the bleak Siberian interior in the middle of nowhere, security forces whips at their backs. The names of the icy interior destinations such as Khanty-Mansi, Magadan, Perm, Yakutsk, Sakha strike dread. The tsars, too, would get rid of dissidents by exiling many into the Siberian interior. The city of Irkutsk is but one example.

The report didn't say if those cities were the end destination.

It's chilling to think that this may be what's happening.

The story Reuters put out is here:

(Reuters) - The city council of Ukraine's Mariupol said Russian forces forcefully deported several thousand people from the besieged city last week, after Russia had spoken of "refugees" arriving from the strategic port.

"Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents were deported onto the Russian territory," the council said in a statement on its Telegram channel late on Saturday.

"The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy 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."

Reuters could not independently verify the claims.

A CNN correspondent is on the story, too, noting more of the backstory -- the Nazis did it, too:

You could tell from the Reuters piece that the writers were struggling to confirm any facts on the ground that they could. They did line up official Russian reports such as these:

Russia's Defence Ministry said busses carrying people it called refugees from Mariupol began to arrive to Russia on Tuesday, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported last week. The ministry was not immediately available to comment on the Mariupol city council's claims.

...and...

The Russian TASS news agency reported on Saturday that 13 busses were moving to Russia, carrying more than 350 people, about 50 of whom were to be sent by rail to the Yaroslavl region and the rest to temporary transition centres in Taganrog, a port city in Russia's Rostov region.

Was that whitewashing from the Russians? Was this all it was? Were the Ukrainians engaging in disinformation to win more sympathy from the West?

Maybe there really were only a few hundred people who wanted to take refuge in Russia and the Russians sent them some buses. Mariupol has a huge ethnic Russian population and it's very possible many people have relatives in Russia they could stay with to wait the war out. Given how unlivable Mariupol has come as it's being shelled by Russia, others conceivably could have said to themselves: Any port in a storm.

It's also worth noting that neither of those cities claimed by Moscow is a hellhole -- Taganrog is Anton Chekhov's hometown, a warm vibrant southern Russian port city with lots of color and ethnic diversity. Yaroslavl, 250 miles northeast of Moscow, is known as one of the 'Golden Ring' of cities created by the early tsars, much of it quite comparable to Kyiv itself in Slavic grandeur.

But it's unknown if those cities are just way stations on the way to something very grim or the Ukrainians are just being paranoid. 

It's very well known to Ukrainians what the Russians can and will do to them, which is why they vow to fight to the death. The Russians have starved them, in the Holodomor, as a means of obtaining their complete submission, and they've already deported many to Siberia. It certainly explains why some 3.5 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania, and other nearby countries. With news like this about forced deportations into the Russian interior coming out, the latter must be breathing sighs of relief, and the former must be steeling themselves even more.

Putin, borrowing a favorite word from George Soros, (whom he hates), says his invasion is all about 'de-Nazifying' Ukraine. If the Reuters report, based on the Mariupol officials is correct, it raises the issue of ethnic cleansing as Putin's end game. Forcing millions of Ukrainians into the Siberian interior, and quite possibly Gulag camps, sounds like ethnic cleansing as a base for Russification of Ukraine, not 'de-Nazification.'

It also points to the sad reality that Russia has not confronted its Soviet past and desperately needs 'de-Sovietizing.' Its KGB, Cheka, and NKVD records, once opened, are now closed. The Stalin statues are still up in many places, and Putin himself nostalgizes about the old Soviet glory -- whose foremost marker was the Gulag archipelago.

If deporting unsubmissive Ukrainians to the Gulag is Putin's endgame, should he not be able to bomb them into submission, there's no end to the evil that may follow. Reuters is right to keep onto this story because it significantly changes much of our understanding of what Putin has in mind, and it may include the very worst crimes of the Soviet empire.

Image: Gulag Location Map.svg: Antonu, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

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