AT Mariupol, the humanitarian situation is more critical than ever. But that does not prevent the Russian army from continuing its bombardments there. On Wednesday, the Downtown Drama Theater was targeted and completely destroyed. Ukrainian officials – who said the theater housed more than a thousand civilians – posted a photo appearing to show the three-storey building in flames and devastated by an explosion.
In Washington, responding to a journalist, US President Joe Biden said about his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin: “He is a war criminal. “Unacceptable and unforgivable” remarks, replied the Kremlin. Shortly before, Joe Biden had confirmed that his country would provide an additional $800 million in military aid to kyiv, an “unprecedented $1 billion envelope in one week to support its army”. “At the request” of the Ukrainian head of state, who had addressed the American Congress a little earlier, “we are helping Ukraine to acquire additional and longer-range anti-aircraft defense systems”, a- he said, adding that drones would also be delivered.
The human toll of the destruction of the Mariupol theater was not yet known Thursday morning. But the Ukrainian authorities claimed that there were children among the civilian refugees in the building. The American space technology company Maxar Technologies, which specializes in particular in satellite imagery, published on Wednesday a photo of the Mariupol Drama Theater taken on Monday according to it. According to the photo consulted by Agence France-Presse, the word “children” was written on the ground, in huge white letters and in Russian, in front and behind the building.
The town hall of Mariupol published for its part on Telegram a photo of the theater showing its central part completely destroyed, with a thick white smoke which escapes from it. According to the authorities, it was a plane that dropped a bomb on the building. “The plane dropped a bomb on the building […]. It is impossible to establish the balance sheet in the immediate future because the bombardments of the residential districts continue, ”indicated the town hall. “The entrance to the shelter is blocked with debris. Information about the victims is being verified,” she said.
Russia denies bombing
The Russian Ministry of Defense for its part denied having bombed the theater, blaming the explosion on the account of the Ukrainian nationalist battalion Azov. Moscow had already blamed this military unit during the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital last week, which sparked an international outcry. “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 was indignant in its press release.
Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian army had already announced that the Russian army had bombarded civilians fleeing Mariupol on Wednesday in a humanitarian corridor, causing “deaths” and injuries, including a seriously injured child. A convoy of civilians en route from Mariupol to Zaporozhye was targeted by Grad multiple rocket launcher fire at around 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT), the Ukrainian army had indicated on Telegram, posting a photo of a injured and bloodied child. After a series of failures, for lack of a Russian-Ukrainian ceasefire, evacuations have accelerated in Mariupol, while in this strategic port, the inhabitants lack water and food. More than 2,000 civilians have died in Mariupol that has been besieged and shelled for days, according to local authorities.