Russian state news agency TASS on Thursday, revealed that a least 1.6 million people from Ukraine and breakaway republics in the Donbas region have crossed into Russia since the start of the Kremlin’s invasion.

The agency which cited a law enforcement source stated that “As of Wednesday morning, more than 1.6 million people, including almost 263,000 children, crossed the border.”

With so much concern on movement of Ukrainians to Russia, Volodymyr Zelensky said the aim is “to steal people” and “make deportees forget about Ukraine and not be able to return.”

Prior to his comment on Thursday, Zelensky said more than 200,000 children had been taken to Russia so far, after accusing Russia of pursuing a “consistent criminal policy of deporting [Ukrainian] people” into mostly remote areas of Russia, CNN reports.

At least 33,000 people, including 11,000 children, are currently being kept in 559 temporary accommodation centers across Russia, TASS confirmed.

It also added that rest “have been placed with relatives and privately.”

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have now been processed through a series of “filtration camps” in eastern Ukraine, four sources familiar with the latest Western intelligence assessments told CNN in late May.

The source also stated that they were then sent across the border to Russia as part of a systemised program of forced removal and resettlement.

Meanwhile, another angle to the accusation from Mariupol’s city council was that Russian forces was accused of bringing Ukrainians to these centers as part of a broader effort to cover up potential war crimes by “destroying” potential witnesses.