Some 300 people were killed in the bombing of the Mariupol Drama Theater, according to local authorities, which would make the attack on the building, which hundreds of people used as a refuge in the port city besieged by Russian forces for weeks, in the most deadliest known so far from Russia’s war against Ukraine. kyiv denounces that the building, which was warned with large white letters on the floor that it housed “children”, was attacked by a Russian missile.
The UN calculates that 1,081 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the invasion, although it assumes that the figure is underestimated. In Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, where fierce battles are taking place between Ukrainian and Russian troops, the population remains in a catastrophic situation. The City Council assures that some 150 people survived the attack on the theater on the 16th, and cited eyewitnesses to count the deceased, although it did not specify how it had reached the estimate or if the emergency services have finished digging in the ruins of the building in a city that has become a symbol of attacks against the civilian population.
The United Nations has declared this Friday that it has more and more evidence of mass graves in Mariupol, including evidence from satellite images. The siege and constant indiscriminate attacks on civilian property in a city now almost reduced to rubble made it impossible to bury the dead.
The UN human rights office is investigating reports that Russian forces shot and killed civilians in their cars as they fled Mariupol, dozens of cases of disappearances of Ukrainian officials and journalists in various parts of the country, and the forced movement of civilians. to the territory controlled by Russia. The Kremlin denies that it has attacked civilians and has gone so far as to accuse Ukraine of fabricating the accusations, including in the attack on the city’s maternity hospital.
While hundreds of civilians desperately try to leave Mariupol, surrounded by Russian forces, and many others want to enter the city to bring aid and evacuate their loved ones. The situation is increasingly dramatic in the city, where the forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin already control the port and three neighborhoods. Russian forces have made slow but steady progress in Mariupol and entered the city center on March 24. Local authorities had withdrawn to coordinate the evacuation.
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The Ukrainian government estimates that there are around 100,000 civilians left in the city. “More and more deaths from starvation,” the Mariupol City Council warned in a publication on Telegram. “More and more people are running out of food. And all attempts to launch a large-scale humanitarian operation to save the people of Mariupol are blocked by the Russian side.”
This Friday, a senior Ukrainian police officer who was in the port city in 2014 during the war in the Donbas region, when kyiv troops defeated pro-Russian separatists supported and promoted by the Kremlin there, offered to surrender to the Russian forces there in exchange for safe passage for the children still left in the besieged city. “Today, many children remain in the completely destroyed city, and if they are not saved now, they will die in the next few days,” police commander Vyacheslav Abroskin wrote on Facebook.
“The time is finishing. I appeal to the Russian occupiers: give the opportunity to get the children out of Mariupol. Instead of living children, I offer myself”, added Abroskin, who has asked for three days inside the city to find as many minors as possible and organize their evacuation. “At the last checkpoint on the way back with the children, I will give up. This is my personal initiative. My life belongs only to me and I offer it in exchange for the lives of the children who still remain in Mariupol,” he said.
It is in southern Ukraine that Russia — which has its troops stalled in many places and is now rethinking and downgrading its military objectives by claiming that its intention was only to control the Donbas region in the east — has made its greatest gains. The Kremlin has secured a partial land corridor between Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, to Donbas territories it controls through pro-Russian separatists. And I would have it complete in the absence of Mariupol.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry acknowledged on Friday that Kremlin forces had been “partially successful” in securing enough territory around the besieged port city of Mariupol to move troops and supplies between Crimea and Russia.
If he manages to take over this city, Putin could rethink the offensive. It is an achievement that he can to sell at home, not only because of the corridor and because Mariupol is in Donbas (and at home with its rhetoric of the “special operation in Donbas”), but also because of its symbolism: the city is the headquarters of the Azov battalion of ultra-nationalist origins and one of the volunteer battalions that in 2014 joined the battle in the face of the shortcomings of the Ukrainian Army. Since then it has been reformed, it has new members and now it is one more arm of the Army, part of the national guard. However, his defeat on his territory could also marry Putin’s rhetoric of “denazification” and could also present him at home as a victory, despite the enormous losses of Russia, which for the first time in weeks has reported this Friday of its casualties: 1,351 soldiers killed and 3,825 wounded. Ukraine, which has not published its figures, estimates the number of dead Russian soldiers at 15,000.
While the Kremlin talks about its objectives in Ukraine and ensures that everything is going “according to plan”, the fierce attacks continue. This Friday, a missile attack has reached a military installation in Dnipro, a strategic city in the center of the country, for logistics and transport. In addition, Russian forces are tightening their attacks on Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city with a Russian-speaking majority, where they have attacked a building where food aid was being distributed. There are six dead and 15 wounded in a town that has already been hit hard by the bombs.