Russian forces bombed a theatre where hundreds of civilians, including children, were sheltering in the encircled port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, the city council said.
Officials said it is impossible to know how many people were killed or injured in the attack on the Mariupol Drama Theatre because the shelling of residential areas continues in the city, meaning rescuers can’t reach those in the rubble.
Satellite imagery from Monday showed the word ‘children’ written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the theatre building in an apparent effort to stave off any attack by Putin’s forces.
But two days later, Russian forces bombed the theatre where hundreds were sheltering.
After the Russian bombing, the central part of the theatre collapsed and debris blocked the entrance to the bomb shelter located inside the building, the city council said.
Petro Andruishchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said the theatre was the city’s largest shelter ‘in number and size’.
He told CNN: ‘More than a thousand people were hiding there but the probability of getting there to dismantle the rubble is low due to constant shelling and bombing of the city.’
Russian authorities have repeatedly insisted that their forces are only targeting strategic military locations and are not waging war on the civilian population of Ukraine. But there have been repeated attacks on residential areas by Putin’s forces.
Russian rocket attacks also targeted a convoy of people fleeing Mariupol, killing civilians, including children, on Wednesday after earlier strikes targeted a nearby hub for displaced people. It is not yet known how many were killed in the shelling.
Russian forces bombed a theatre where hundreds of civilians, including children, were sheltering in the encircled port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, the city council said
Officials said it is impossible to know how many people were killed or injured in the attack on the Mariupol Drama Theatre (pictured before the attack) because the shelling of residential areas continues in the city, meaning rescuers can’t reach those in the rubble
Satellite imagery from Monday showed the word ‘children’ written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the theatre building in an effort to stave off any attack by Putin’s forces
After the Russian bombing, the central part of the theatre collapsed and debris blocked the entrance to the bomb shelter located inside the building, the city council said
The Ukrainian military said the civilians had been travelling from Mariupol to the city of Zaporizhzhia through a humanitarian corridor – supposedly safe passages for citizens to flee – when they were fired on by Russian troops.
An image from the scene of the shelling showed a burnt out car, with a damaged door blown open.
‘Today at around 3.30pm (13.30 GMT), a column of civilians being evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia was fired on by inhuman Russian occupiers,’ the military said, adding that ‘the number of victims is being clarified’.
‘Heavy artillery of the enemy forces fired on a convoy of civilians moving along the highway towards Zaporizhzhia,’ said governor Oleksandr Starukh in an online post.
Nowhere has suffered more than the encircled city of Mariupol, where local officials say missile strikes and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people.
The southern seaport of 430,000 has been under attack for almost all of the three-week war in a siege that has left people struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.
Meanwhile, rescuers in Mariupol were unable to reach the hundreds of civilians who had been hiding in the Drama Theatre when Russia bombed the building.
Russian rocket attacks also targeted a convoy of people fleeing Mariupol, killing civilians, including children, after earlier strikes targeted a nearby hub for displaced people. Pictured: A car from a convoy of people fleeing from Mariupol, destroyed by shelling, is seen on a road in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on Wednesday
Serhiy Taruta, a local politician, said fierce battles were ongoing in Mariupol and said no one could get the civilians out of the rubble.
Taruta told Interfax news agency: ‘We don’t know if there are survivors. And the worst thing is that we can’t get them out of the rubble. Many Mariupol residents were hiding in the theater with small children.
‘We undertake an obligation. To the dead and survivors of the Russian bombing.
‘The obligation to find every pilot who drops bombs on Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities. We will find everyone. We will find and destroy.
‘We will not stop until at least one of them breathes. This is our sacred duty.’
Over 28,800 civilians have managed to escape Mariupol through several humanitarian corridors, but thousands are still stuck in the city, Ukrainian officials said.
More than 20,000 have reached the city of Zaporizhzhia, but Russian forces have started to shell the city.
eople fleeing from Mariupol amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stand next to a police officer, in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on Wednesday
Evacuees from Mariupol are seen upon arrival at the car park of a shopping centre on the outskirts of the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is now a registration centre for displaced people, on Wednesday
Vladimir Putin’s troops launched rocket strikes on Zaporizhzhia overnight, hitting a railway station, though there were no reports of casualties, the regional governor Oleksander Vasylyovych said in an announcement on Facebook.
The evacuation of civilians in Mariupol came even as Russian forces have renewed their shelling on the coastal city, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have struggled to stay alive without heat, food and clean water.
Russian forces in Mariupol have rounded up 400 people from houses neighbouring the city’s hospital number two, along with 100 doctors and patients who were already inside, and are refusing to let them leave, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Humanitarian convoys again failed to make it into Mariupol because of the Russian assault but managed to deliver aid and set up evacuation corridors from Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy region.
The head of the Red Cross, which has helped organize the evacuations, arrived in Kyiv Wednesday to push for better humanitarian aid access and protection for civilians.
Overall, more than 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine, the U.N. said – Europe’s largest refugee crisis since WWII.
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