Mariupol: survivors emerge from a bombed-out theater

Kyiv, Ukraine. On Thursday, Ukrainian authorities sought to determine the fate of hundreds of civilians who had taken refuge in a theater in besieged Mariupol that was destroyed by a Russian airstrike, and officials said artillery had destroyed other civilian buildings on the other front line. city.

Some hope was raised when an official said that some people had survived the strike on the Mariupol theater.

A photograph released by the Mariupol City Council shows that an entire section of the three-story Bolshoi Theater collapsed after Wednesday night’s strike. Several hundred people have taken refuge in the basement of the building, and the Russian army has been besieging this strategic port city on the Sea of ​​Azov for three weeks.

At least as recently as Monday, the pavement in front of and behind the theater was adorned with huge white letters reading “CHILDREN” in Russian, according to images released by space technology company Maxar.

The wreckage blocked the entrance to the shelter inside the theater, the number of victims is unknown, Pavel Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration, explained in Telegram. People’s Deputy of Ukraine Serhiy Taruta, a former governor of the Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located, later reported on Facebook that some people managed to get out of the destroyed building alive. He did not provide other details.

Kirilenko said Russian airstrikes also hit the municipal swimming pool complex in Mariupol, where civilians, including women and children, had taken refuge. “Now pregnant women and women with children are lying under the rubble,” he wrote, but the number of victims was not immediately known.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for more help for his country in a video message to German lawmakers on Thursday, saying thousands of people, including 108 children, have died in the war that began almost a month ago.

He also touched upon the catastrophic situation in Mariupol. “Everything is a target for them,” he said, including “a theater that hosted hundreds of people and was destroyed yesterday.”

The Russian Defense Ministry denies bombing the theater or anywhere else in Mariupol on Wednesday.

Zelenskiy’s office said Russia launched new airstrikes on Mariupol early Thursday morning, as well as artillery and airstrikes throughout the country during the night, including on the suburbs of Kalinovka and Brovary from Kyiv. Nothing is known about the number of victims.

In Kyiv, where residents huddled in homes and shelters, a fire broke out in a building hit by the remnants of a Russian missile shot down early Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring at least three, according to emergency services. Firefighters evacuated 30 people from the upper floors of the 16-storey building and extinguished the flames within an hour.

Merefa Mayor Veniamin Sitov said Thursday Russian artillery destroyed a school and a cultural center in Merefa, a city near Kharkov in the country’s northeast. It is known that there are no civilian casualties. The Kharkiv region is under heavy artillery fire as Russian troops attempt to advance in the area.

The six countries called for a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Thursday afternoon ahead of an expected vote on Friday on a Russian resolution requiring the protection of Ukrainian civilians “in vulnerable situations” but made no mention of Moscow’s responsibility in the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television Wednesday to criticize Russians who do not support him.

The Russians “will always be able to distinguish real patriots from scum and traitors and just spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouth,” he said. I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country.”

He said the West was using a “fifth column” of traitorous Russians to stir up civil unrest. “And there is only one goal, I have already spoken about this before – the destruction of Russia,” he said.

The speech appeared to be a warning that his authoritarian rule, which had already solidified since the February 24 invasion launched by shutting down Russian news outlets and arresting protesters, could become even more repressive.

In a sign of this, Russian law enforcement agencies have announced the first known criminal cases under a new law that provides for a 15-year prison sentence for publishing what is considered “false information” about the war in Ukraine. Among the defendants was Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a Russian-language cookbook author and blogger living abroad.

Negotiations between the two sides appear to be still ongoing. Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said that Ukraine demanded a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and guarantees of Ukraine’s security from several countries.

“This is only possible with a direct dialogue” between M.M. He launched Zelensky and Putin on Twitter.

A Zelenskyy office official told The Associated Press that the main topic of discussion was whether Russian troops would remain in the breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate talks, said Ukraine had pushed for the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the talks and for a legally binding document with security guarantees for Ukraine. In return, the official said, Ukraine is ready to discuss a neutral status.

Russia demanded that NATO pledge never to accept Ukraine into the alliance and not to deploy its forces there.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky appeared before the US Congress via video link and, referring to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, pleaded with America to provide more weapons and tougher sanctions on Russia, saying: “We need you now.”

President Joe Biden announced that the United States is sending $800 million in military aid to Ukraine. He also called Putin a “war criminal” in his harshest denunciation since the invasion began.

The UN estimates that the fighting has forced more than three million people to leave Ukraine. The death toll remains unknown, although Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.

Nowhere has it suffered more than the besieged city of Mariupol, where more than 2,300 people have died in rocket attacks and shelling, local authorities say. The southern seaport, with a population of 430,000, has been attacked almost since the start of the war three weeks ago, and the siege has led to severe shortages of food, water, heating and medical supplies.

Using his mobile phone’s flashlight to illuminate the basement of the hospital, Dr. Valery Drengar pulled back the blanket to reveal the body of a 22-day-old baby. Other wrapped bodies also turned out to be children.

“These are the people we couldn’t save,” Dr. Drengar said.

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