Mariupol theater

The Mariupol Drama Theater in Mariupol, Ukraine was allegedly bombed by Russian forces on March 16, 2022. (Photo: Donetsk Regional Administration)

'Horrific': Russia Allegedly Bombs Mariupol Theater Sheltering Hundreds of Ukrainian Civilians

"We don't know if there are any survivors," one witness said. "The bomb shelter is also covered with debris… there are both adults and children there."

Russian forces on Wednesday allegedly bombed a theater in which at least hundreds of civilians were reportedly sheltering in Ukraine's embattled southern port city of Mariupol.

"It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act."

The Mariupol City Council said that a warplane "dropped a bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding," accusing Russian troops of "purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol."

Photos and video footage showed the theater almost completely destroyed by the attack. It is unknown how many, if any, casualties resulted from the bombing.

"We don't know if there are any survivors," one witness toldThe Guardian. "The bomb shelter is also covered with debris... there are both adults and children there."

"It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act," the council wrote on Telegram. "It is known that after the bombing, the central part of the Drama Theater was destroyed, and the entrance to the bomb shelter in the building was destroyed."

Aerial photos of the theater taken in recent days show the word "children" painted in large Russian letters in parking lots on two sides of the building. Video footage reportedly recorded inside the theater before the attack shows the building packed with refuge-seeking civilians, many of them children.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the attack "another horrendous war crime," tweeting that the "Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter."

Reutersreports that the Russian Defense Ministry denied that its forces carried out the attack, for which it blamed the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia.

Mariupol is encircled by Russian forces and has suffered heavy bombardment, including many attacks on civilian infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of residents remain trapped in the city, many of them without adequate food, water, power, heat, or medical supplies.

Mariupol officials say they have identified 2,400 city residents killed by Russian forces. Pyotr Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city government, said he believes "we have inaccurate data on civilians killed" and that the true death toll might be as high as 20,000.

"It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of cruelty and cynicism with which the Russian occupiers are destroying the civilian population of the Ukrainian city by the sea," the Mariupol council wrote. "Women, children, and the elderly remain in the enemy's sights. These are completely unarmed peaceful people. We will never forgive and never forget."

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