The Ukrainian city of Mariupol searches for survivors in the rubble of a theater

A view shows the Donetsk Regional Theater in Mariupol, which was destroyed by an air raid
A view shows the Donetsk Regional Theater of Drama destroyed by an airstrike amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters March 16, 2022. Press Service of the Civil-Military Administration of Donetsk Region/Handout via REUTERS

March 17, 2022

By Pavel Polityuk

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Rescue workers searched for survivors in the rubble of a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol on Thursday after Ukraine said a powerful Russian airstrike hit the building where hundreds of people were sheltering from the war.

The port city is encircled by Russian forces and has seen some of the heaviest bombing of the conflict.

“Heartbreaks what Russia is doing to our people, to our Mariupol and to our Donetsk region,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late-night address on Wednesday, after referring to the attack at the theater.

Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor, said some people survived the blast.

“The air raid shelter held. Now the rubble is being cleared. There are survivors. We don’t know the (number of) casualties yet,” he told Reuters by phone.

He said rescue work was underway to reach survivors and determine the death toll, which is still unknown.

Russia has denied bombing the theater.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday the claim that Russia had bombed the theater was a “lie” and reiterated that the Kremlin denied that Russian forces had attacked civilians since invading Ukraine on February 24 .

“Russia’s armed forces do not bomb cities and towns,” she said in a briefing.

Tetyana Ignatchenko, spokeswoman for the Donetsk regional military administration, said that a week ago 1,000 people were in the Mariupol theater.

“But after that, many people were able to flee. We can’t say exactly how many people were in the theater. We can only assume 400-500. Half of them.”

Satellite images of the theater taken earlier this week prior to the impact show a large structure with a red roof and the Russian word for “children” painted in large white letters on the tarmac front and back.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, writing by Alessandra Prentice, editing by Timothy Heritage and Mike Collett-White) The Ukrainian city of Mariupol searches for survivors in the rubble of a theater

Bobby Allyn

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