Handout - Donetsk Regional Civil-Military Administration Press Service
LVIV, Ukraine - An official at the mayor's office in Mariupol has said that the Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama doubling as a bomb shelter was largely destroyed when it came under attack from a Russian air strike. There are believed to be survivors trapped underneath, An official at the mayor's office said on Thursday.
"There are survivors. We don’t know about the (number of ) victims yet. Rescue work is under way to reach survivors and establish the number of casualties, which was still unknown,” said mayoral adviser Petro Andrushchenko.
Ukraine officials say hundreds of civilians, including children, found refuge in the shelter for more than two weeks as the port city became surrounded and under seige from Russian forces.
Russia has denied bombing the theatre.
If Not The Russians, then WHO?
Moscow defence ministry said its forces had not struck the building and instead accused the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia of bombing it.
“The allegation that Russia had bombed the theatre is a LIE,” said Maria Zakharova spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry. "Russia's armed forces don't bomb towns and cities," she stated in a news briefing.
Russia did not give evidence to back up the claim but had previously accused the battalion of preventing civilians from leaving the city, which has come under heavy bombardment.
Maxar Technologies, a private U.S. company, distributed satellite imagery that it said was collected on March 14 and showed the word "children" in large Russian script painted on the ground outside the red-roofed Mariupol Drama Theatre was prominently visible from the air and within view of Russian fighter jets.
Ukrainian officials said many people were trapped in the theatre and has accused Russia of committing war crimes.
A satellite image shows a closer view of Mariupol Drama Theatre before bombing, as a word "CHILDREN" in Russian is written in large white letters on the pavement in front of and behind the building, in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 14, 2022. Picture taken March 14, 2022. Satellite image 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout
(With information from Reuters)