Internet videos show rubble, debris and thick clouds of smoke as Ukraine blames Russian troops for an apparently devastating attack on a theater building in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
“Violent Russian attack on the Drama Theater where hundreds of innocent civilians are hiding,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night. He calls the attack on the theater another “war crime” and posted a photo before and after the attack. The second photo, said to show the destroyed theater, is unverifiable.
Russia, for its part, denies the attack, according to the Russian news agency RIA. The Defense Ministry claimed it had not carried out any air strikes against ground targets in Mariupol on Wednesday, blaming the Ukrainian nationalist Azov regiment for the attack.
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According to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, at least 500 civilians would have stayed in the theater. According to the Ukrainian authorities, there were 1,000 people. The incident was “another tragedy” in the city, Mayor Vadim Bojchenko wrote on his Telegram channel on Thursday night. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message that people had sought protection from the bombing. Now the building is destroyed. There is no information on fatalities yet.
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Moscow, in turn, accused the Ukrainian soldiers of first mining and attacking the building. The information provided by both parties could not initially be independently verified.
According to Ukrainian information, in addition to the theater, another place in Mariupol was bombed on Wednesday where civilians were said to be present.
The Unian agency reported on Wednesday night, citing the head of the military administration of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, that a swimming pool was hit, in which women with children and pregnant women had sought protection. The people were buried, Kyrylenko said accordingly. The Ukrainian side also blamed the Russian soldiers for this attack.
Mariupol has been surrounded by Russian troops for weeks and is being bombarded from various sides. Hundreds of thousands of people are said to be trapped in the Azov Sea port city in catastrophic conditions.
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This is not the first time that reports of attacks on civilians in Mariupol have caused international outrage. A week ago, Russian troops bombed the building of a maternity hospital. Moscow later explained that the house had been used as a camp for Ukrainian fighters. Ukraine and the United Nations, on the other hand, emphasized that patients were still being treated there at the time of the attack.
According to Ukrainian sources, several civilians were killed, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. An image had previously gone around the world showing the injured woman being carried through the rubble by helpers on a stretcher. (dpa)