Russian forces bomb theatre in southern Ukraine city of Mariupol

Authorities in Ukraine have accused Russian forces of bombing a theatre, as well as a pool facility in the besieged southern city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians, including pregnant women and children, were said to have taken refuge from the conflict.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, posted pictures and videos of the Mariupol Drama Theatre and the Neptune Pool buildings on Telegram, saying the “Russians are deliberately attacking civilians” after Wednesday’s bombings.

The photos showed the middle section of the theatre building completely destroyed with thick white smoke rising from the rubble. Videos of the pool facility showed windows, doors and the roof blown out.

He said there were pregnant women and children under the debris and condemned the attack as “pure terrorism”.

On Thursday morning, Ukrainian lawmaker, Serhiy Taruta, said in a Facebook post that there were survivors from the attack on the theatre which contained a bomb shelter.

“After a terrible night of uncertainty, on the morning of the 22nd day of the war, finally good news from Mariupol! The bomb shelter has held,” he wrote.

“People are coming out alive!” he said, adding that removal of the rubble had begun.

Satellite images of the theatre on March 14, shared by private satellite company, Maxar, showed the words “children” clearly etched out in the ground in Russian on either side of the building.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said Russia had committed a “horrendous war crime”.

“It is impossible to find words to describe the level of cynicism and cruelty with which Russian invaders are destroying peaceful residents of a Ukrainian city by the sea,” it added.

The Russian defence ministry, however, denied attacking the building and accused the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia, of blowing it up, according to the RIA news agency. It provided no evidence to support the allegation.

Authorities in Mariupol rejected the Russian claim as “lies”.

Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, said the Russians “are well aware there were only children”.

The Mariupol City Council suggested hundreds of people were in the building at the time of the attack.

“The invaders destroyed the Drama Theatre. A place where more than a thousand people found refuge. We will never forgive this,” the Mariupol City Council said in a Telegram post. -Aljazeera

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