President Zelenskyy: ‘My heart breaks’ after Mariupol theatre bombing
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says “my heart breaks from what Russia is doing to our people” after Russian forces destroyed a theatre in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
Local officials say “more than a thousand” civilians had been sheltering there since their own homes were destroyed in the ongoing fighting.
The airstrike ripped apart the center of the once-elegant building, with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry saying many people were buried in the rubble although there is still no official casualty figure.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy called for more sanctions on Russia after the bombing.
On Thursday morning the Russian defence ministry denied bombing the theatre or anywhere else in Mariupol. They blamed the Ukrainian far-right Azov Brigade for being behind the attack on the theatre and a swimming pool complex which was also reportedly hit.
Moscow had already blamed this military unit during the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital last week, which sparked an international outcry.
Mariupol municipality wrote on their Telegram account on Wednesday that “the invaders destroyed the Drama Theatre. A place where more than a thousand people had taken refuge. We will never forgive this.”
The account posted a picture of the theatre showing its central part completely destroyed.
“The plane dropped a bomb on the building […]. It is impossible to establish the toll immediately because the bombing of residential areas continues” the account said.
The entrance to the theatre is reportedly blocked by debris making it even more difficult for rescuers to get inside.
“It is impossible to find the words to describe the level of cynicism and cruelty with which the Russian invaders are annihilating the peaceful inhabitants” of Mariupol, the town hall said in a press release.
Satellite imagery from Mariupol on Monday showed area of the theatre, with the word “CHILDREN” written in Russian in large, white capital letters on the pavement in front of and behind the building, the Maxar space technology company said.