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Mariupol theater

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

Ukraine Officials Say 300 Civilians Were Killed by Russian Bombing of Mariupol Theater

"There cannot and never will be an explanation for this inhuman cruelty."

Brett Wilkins

Officials in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol said Friday that they believe around 300 people were killed in a March 16 Russian airstrike on a theater in which at least hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

"We still do not want to believe in this horror. We still want to believe that everyone managed to escape."

"There is information, based on eyewitnesses, that about 300 people died in the Drama Theater in Mariupol as a result of a bombing by Russian aircraft," the Mariupol City Council said on its Telegram channel. "We still do not want to believe in this horror. We still want to believe that everyone managed to escape. But the words of those who were inside the building at the time of this terrorist act say otherwise."

Details regarding the number of people killed and wounded in last week's attack have been slow to emerge. Aerial photographs—which showed the world "children" painted on parking lots outside—and video footage showed the extent of destruction to the building, in which as many as 1,300 people were believed to have sought safety from Russia's onslaught.

"There cannot and never will be an explanation for this inhuman cruelty," the council said. "As there never will be forgiveness for those who brought devastation, pain, and suffering to our home."

If confirmed, the Russian bombing will rank among the deadliest airstrikes in recent decades. At least 408 Iraqi civilians were incinerated in a 1991 U.S. "smart bomb" attack on an air-raid shelter in Baghdad's Amiriyah neighborhood during the first Gulf War. At least 278 civilians reportedly died in a 2017 U.S. strike on the al-Jadidah neighborhood in Mosul, Iraq.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Russian forces have killed 1,081 Ukrainian civilians and wounded 1,707 more as of Friday. However, the agency said that it "believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration."

Officials in Mariupol claim to have identified more than 2,400 civilians killed by Russian forces in the besieged port city alone. It is still unknown how many people were killed or injured in a March 20 Russian attack on Mariupol's Art School No. 12, where 400 women, children, and elders were sheltering.


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