Ukraine officials, Thursday claim that Russia destroyed a theatre sheltering more than a thousand people in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, with the toll yet unknown.
The country’s officials shared images showing the once glowing whitewashed three-storey theatre hollowed out and ablaze, with bricks and scaffolding piled high.
“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.
AFP reported that days before the apparent attack, satellite images — shared by private company Maxar — clearly showed the words “DETI” — or children in Russian — etched out in the ground on either side of the building.
Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko called the attack a “horrifying tragedy”.
“People were hiding there. And some said they were lucky to survive, but unfortunately, not all were lucky”, he said in a video message.
“The only word to describe what has happened today is genocide, the genocide of our nation, our Ukrainian people. But I am confident that the day will come when our beautiful city of Mariupol will rise out of the ruins again”.
The city is a key strategic target for Moscow, potentially linking Russian forces in Crimea to the west and the Donbas to the east and cutting off Ukrainian access to the Sea of Azov.
For days Russian forces have bombarded the city — which once had about half a million residents — cutting power, food and water supplies.
Ukrainian officials branded the bombing a 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”, an official statement read.