Ukraine on Thursday, 17 March, accused Russian forces of bombing a theatre where hundreds of civilians had taken shelter in the southern city of Mariupol amid third week of Russia’s invasion of the country.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba shared a before-after photo of theatre, stating, “Another horrendous war crime in Mariupol. Massive Russian attack on the Drama Theater where hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding. The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter. Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals!”
Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC that between 1,000 and 1,200 people had sought refuge in the building.
While the number of casualties has not yet been established, a local MP reportedly said the basement where people were gathered had withstood the bombing.
"It looks like most of them have survived," Dmytro Gurin told the BBC.
Further, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration, also shared photos of the theatre.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the bombing, adding that Russia had deliberately targeted the theatre.
He said in a video address late on Wednesday evening, "Our hearts are broken by what Russia is doing to our people. To our Mariupol."
Satellite pictures taken on 14 March, released by the US company Maxar, showed the Russian word for "children" had been marked on the ground in large letters to warn Russian jets away from the building.
Meanwhile, Russia has denied responsibility for the attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched the country’s “military operation” on Ukraine on 24 February, stating Russia aims "at demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine."
(With inputs from BBC.)