Nine volunteer drivers on rescue mission to Mariupol detained by Russian forces, aid group says

Apr 11, 2022, 9:44 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:16 pm
A woman pulls her bags past houses damaged during a fighting in Mariupol, on the territory which is...
A woman pulls her bags past houses damaged during a fighting in Mariupol, on the territory which is now under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern in Mariupol, Ukraine, Friday, April 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
(AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

(CNN) — Nine drivers working for “Help People,” a Ukrainian volunteer group that provides food and medicine for those in need and assists in evacuations, were detained by the Russian military and remain missing, a group official told CNN.

A total of 10 minibus drivers had driven into the Donbas region to help evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, operating private vehicles in a low-profile rescue mission. Russian soldiers stopped them and tried to get them to drive the buses into Russia. When the drivers refused, they were taken prisoner, said Alex Voronin, the head of the non-government organization.

Voronin told CNN he had lost contact with all the drivers but one.

“All of them carried out the evacuation of people in the direction of Mariupol-Zaporizhzhia, they were sent on their trips on different dates – March 26, 27 and 31,” Voronin told CNN. “Communication with them broke off the next day after departure. According to the people they managed to evacuate, the Russian military took the vehicles with people in Mariupol from the drivers, the evacuees were taken to the village of Nikolske, the drivers themselves were taken away for identification. Some of them are being held in pre-trial detention centers in Donetsk.”

One of the 10 drivers was released, Voronin told CNN, and from him “we know that three of the missing are in Donetsk. They were interrogated with brute force, fed poorly and kept in appalling conditions. All the rest were told they have the right to keep [in detention] up to 30 days.”

CNN cannot independently verify the whereabouts of the drivers or the conditions under which they are being held. Voronin said drivers left the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia and did not drive in a single convoy.

The city of Mariupol has been devastated by weeks of shelling and is ringed by Russian checkpoints. On Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed South Korean lawmakers, saying he believes there are tens of thousands dead in the southern port city.

“The occupiers blocked it and did not even allow food and water to be brought there. They tried to capture it in the most brutal way – just to destroy everything in the city,” he said.

Ukrainian officials have said around 100,000 people still require evacuation from the city but say Russian forces have not allowed convoys of evacuation buses to reach the city. Adding to the humanitarian crisis, US and Ukrainian officials and humanitarian watchdogs say Russian and separatist troops are forcing tens of thousands of civilians into so-called “filtration centers” in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic before moving them into Russian territory.

Voronin’s group was formed at the beginning of the war, on February 24, in Ukraine, to help evacuate Ukrainians. He says his group — one of many that sprang up in the days since the Russian invasion — has “evacuated more than 2,000 people, children, the disabled and the wounded, and delivered more than 200 tons of food, humanitarian aid and medicine to the same locations where we are evacuating people.”

Voronin says he does not even know who on the Russian side he can talk to in order to secure the release of his drivers. CNN has not been able to verify the whereabouts of the drivers amid the fog of war and confusion in the frontlines and is reporting this at the request of the aid group in the hopes that bringing attention to the story will bring protection of some sort to the missing drivers.

CNN has requested comment from Ukrainian officials overseeing the negotiation of humanitarian evacuation corridors in Ukraine.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

Police secure the scene where a bus crashed into a day care center on Feb. 8. (Anne-Sophie Thill/AF...
Paula Newton

2 children dead, 6 others injured after bus crashes into daycare near Montreal

Authorities in Quebec said two children have died and six others were taken to area hospitals with injuries after a city bus drove into a daycare center in a Montreal suburb Wednesday morning.
23 hours ago
People try to reach people trapped under the debris of a collapsed building in Malatya, Turkey, Tue...
Mehmet Guzel, Ghaith Alsayed, Suzan Fraser and Zeynep Bilginsoy, Associated Press

Hope fading as deaths in Turkey, Syria quake near 12,000

Stretched rescue teams in Turkey and Syria are searching for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by a catastrophic earthquake.
2 days ago
Utah Task Force 1 Headquarters (KSL-TV)...
Jed Boal

Utah Task Force 1 gives insight into search & rescue efforts in Turkey

Two American search & rescue teams similar to Utah's Task Force 1 are heading off to Turkey to help the country recover from a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
2 days ago
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover debris from a suspected Chinese sur...
Haley Britzky

US Navy releases photos of Chinese spy balloon recovery effort

The U.S. Navy released photos Tuesday of its recovery effort of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, which U.S. fighter jets shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
2 days ago
A baby girl who was born under the rubble caused by an earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey receive...
Ghaith Alsayed and Bassem Mroue, Associated Press

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town

Residents digging through a collapsed building in a northwest Syrian town discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble from this week’s devastating earthquake.
2 days ago
Earthquake victims receive treatment at the al-Rahma Hospital in the town of Darkush, Idlib provinc...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Utah Turkish American Association finding ways to help after 7.8 earthquake

In Utah, Turkish Americans are desperately trying to get news from home, and one group is starting to think of how Utahns can help bring relief to their home country.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Nine volunteer drivers on rescue mission to Mariupol detained by Russian forces, aid group says