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In the late afternoon of Wednesday, the Theater of Dramatic Art in Mariupol, the city in southern Ukraine that is among the hardest hit by the bombing and fierce siege tactics of the Russian army, was bombed and almost largely destroyed. . According to the Ukrainian authorities, more than 1,000 civilians, mostly women and children, were in the theater, seeking refuge from the bombing, although it is not possible to confirm this figure independently. There are still no precise estimates on how many people were killed in the bombing: for many hours no news came and it was feared that the death toll could be high, but it seems instead that the structure of the theater protected most of the civilians inside.
The Mariupol Dramatic Art Theater is located in the city center, not far from the town hall. According to various reconstructions, it was the subject of an air raid, which destroyed a large part of the building.
The Russian authorities, a few hours after the bombing, denied having carried out air operations in that area, but the photos of the destroyed theater have been independently confirmed by various newspapers and experts.
– Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 16, 2022
– Daniele Palumbo (@ Danict89) March 16, 2022
Shortly after the news spread that the Mariupol Theater of Dramatic Art had been destroyed, the Ukrainian authorities informed journalists that for days there had been many civilians inside the theater, especially women and children, seeking shelter from the bombings.
Sergei Orlov, one of the city’s deputy mayors, told a BBC that there were between 1,000 and 1,200 people in the theater. At the moment it is not possible to confirm this figure, but there are some signs that the theater was actually used as a refuge for civilians. Among other things, the satellite images taken before the bombing show that the word “children” was written in huge characters on the squares in front and behind the theater, to be seen even from the sky.
The words “children” were written in Russian outside the Mariupol Drama Theater before it was bombed today by Russian forces. Local authorities and media said the building had been used as a shelter for hundreds of Ukrainian civilians. 📸: @Maxar pic.twitter.com/1blPSY9UaE
– Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) March 16, 2022
There is also a video shot inside the Mariupol theater a few days ago that clearly shows how the theater was really used as a refuge by many people.
Drama Theater from the inside before the #Russian bombing
Just look at how many children are there… pic.twitter.com/Sgg4q8gPmP
– NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 16, 2022
It is not yet clear, however, whether and how many civilians were in the theater at the time of the bombing, and possibly how many died.
The difficulty of obtaining information from Mariupol also depends on the fact that for more than two weeks the city has been completely surrounded by Russian forces, which are carrying out a very hard and ferocious siege. The city – which has more than 400,000 inhabitants – is without drinking water, without electricity, without heating and without the possibility of obtaining humanitarian aid and supplies. The Russian army is systematically blocking all convoys of food, medicine and other items that the Ukrainian authorities have tried to send to the city.
Furthermore, Russian forces are carrying out systematic and incessant bombings, which hit civilian buildings and the most important infrastructures of the city, which has been razed or destroyed in large portions.
According to the city authorities, more than 2,500 people died in Mariupol due to bombing and the siege of Russian forces. There are so many corpses that the authorities have been forced to bury them in mass graves.
The siege and the terrible state of the inhabitants is told in a reportage published on Wednesday by the two journalists of Associated Press Mstyslav Chernov and Eugeniy Maloletka, who are currently the only journalists working for a Western media present in Mariupol. They write that they cannot confirm the death toll provided by the authorities, but that indeed most of the dead people they have had direct experience of were women and children.
[Attenzione: il video qui sotto è molto duro, mostra persone ferite gravemente e cadaveri]
Terrifying footage from Ukrainian Mariupol. Only one hospital remains working here, others are destroyed. Today, Russian aviation bombed the city theater, the largest bomb shelter. According to the residents, more than 1500 civilians were hiding inside. pic.twitter.com/SXJMPEP4O0
– Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) March 16, 2022
The Russian bombings hit all the hospitals in the city except one, which without electricity and drinking water struggles to treat those in need. The fire brigade headquarters, the pitch outside a school, a church, and many condominiums and shops were also affected by the bombing. Since it is too dangerous to bury one’s dead, the city authorities have asked the population to leave the people killed in the bombings on the street in front of the houses, he writes. AP.
Russian authorities continue to argue that the bombings do not hit civilian targets.