300 dead in Russian airstrike on theater in Mariupol, officials say

 300 dead in Russian airstrike on theater in Mariupol, officials say

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Ukraine) – According to eyewitnesses, some 300 people were killed in a Russian attack last week on a theatre in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol that was being used as a bomb shelter.

When the theatre was attacked on March 16, a big inscription in Russian reading “CHILDREN” was put outside, meant to be seen from the sky.

It was unclear whether emergency crews had completed their excavation of the site or how eyewitnesses arrived at the shocking death toll. Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, reported more than 1,300 people were sheltering in the building shortly after the airstrike.

Mariupol has suffered some of the worst devastation of the war, in which Russia has been continuously besieging and pummeling Ukraine’s cities. The hardship inside them is so great that practically everyone who can is attempting to flee, and those who remain confront severe food shortages in a country that was once renowned as the world’s breadbasket.

Mostly elderly women arrived in the bombarded city of Kharkiv to collect food and other essential supplies. Because so many relatives have fled, urns left unclaimed, ashes of the dead are building up at the main cremation in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.

As the crisis enters its second month, the days of plenty in Ukraine are becoming a distant memory for citizens who are unable to join the tide of refugees fleeing the nation.

Ukraine Russia conflict

Civilians are being evacuated from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is under the control of Russian military and pro-Russian separatists, along humanitarian corridors. (Photo courtesy of Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

With Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russia’s invasion force to a near stalemate in many places and the president urging people to stay the course, the United States and the European Union announced a new partnership to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy and gradually squeeze off the billions of dollars the Kremlin receives from fossil fuel sales.

In Ukraine, the struggle for hungry civilians is now measured in food rations, and a block of cheese can now go a long way.

A young girl in Kharkiv fidgeted with eagerness as she watched a volunteer’s knife slice through a big slab of cheese, dishing out thick slices – one for each hungry person waiting stoically in line.

Hanna Spitsyna was in charge of dividing up the food supplies delivered by the Ukrainian Red Cross and distributing it to her neighbours. Each person in line received a lump of cheese that was chopped under the child’s watchful eye and deposited chunk by chunk into plastic bags held open like ravenous lips.

“They brought us aid,” Spitsyna explained, “and they brought us aid for the elderly women who stayed here.” “Diapers, swaddling blankets, and nourishment are all needed for these people.”

Russian forces are raining down shells and missiles on cities from afar, unable to surge into Kyiv with lightning-quick speed, as was their apparent goal when the Kremlin initiated the assault on Feb. 24.

Foggy haze engulfed the suburbs of Kharkiv on Friday, with shelling continuing since early in the morning. A day after physicians treated a dozen civilians, many wounded soldiers arrived in a municipal hospital with gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

The sound of shelling could be heard in the surgery ward while surgeons stabilised the most serious patient.

According to the Interfax news agency, Russia’s military claimed Friday that it destroyed a huge Ukrainian fuel base used to support the Kyiv region’s defences with ships firing a volley of cruise missiles. A massive flame explosion near the capital was captured on video and shared on social media.

The agony has become unbearable for civilians. In the huge refugee crisis, which has seen more than 10 million people displaced and at least 3.5 million depart the nation totally, Kyiv, like other cities, has had its population drastically decreased. Since the beginning of the war, more than 260 citizens have died in the capital, and more than 80 buildings have been demolished.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine urged his country to maintain its military defences and not “even for a minute” to pause. On Thursday, Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to “move toward peace, move forward” in his evening video address.

“We are coming closer to the peace that we so much need with every day of our defence. We can’t pause for even a minute, because every minute affects our fate, our future, and whether or not we will live.” In the first month of the war, he said, thousands of people died, including 128 children. 230 schools and 155 kindergartens across the country have been demolished. He described cities and villages as “ashes.”

Zelenskyy pleaded with Western allies for planes, tanks, rockets, air defence systems, and other weapons via video at an emergency NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, claiming his country is “defending our common ideals.”

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy commended EU leaders in a video message for cooperating to assist Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, notably Germany’s decision to prevent Russia from sending natural gas to Europe through the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline. But he bemoaned the fact that these measures were not taken sooner, claiming that Russia may have reconsidered invading.

While millions of Ukrainians have fled to the west, Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of residents from damaged cities and forcing Kyiv to surrender. Ukraine’s ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, stated 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, were deported against their will to Russia, where they may be used as “hostages” to force Kyiv to submit.

The Kremlin offered virtually equal statistics for those who have been relocated, but claimed they were from eastern Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and wanted to go to Russia. For nearly eight years, pro-Moscow separatists have fought for authority in those areas, where many residents support tight connections to Russia.

Aside from that,

—In Chernihiv, where a critical bridge was destroyed by an airstrike last week, a local administrator, Olexander Lomako, described the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe” as Russian forces target food storage facilities. According to him, some 130,000 people remain in the besieged city, roughly half of its prewar population.

—Russia announced on Friday that it will begin offering safe passage to 67 ships from 15 countries that have been stuck in Ukrainian ports due to bombardment and mines.

—Russian forces fired two missiles on the outskirts of Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, late Thursday, according to regional emergency services. Buildings were demolished, and two fires were started, according to the report. It is unknown how many people were killed or injured.

—With the United States and others ramping up sanctions against Russia, Moscow signalled that the measures haven’t brought it to its knees by reopening its stock market but only permitting restricted trade to avoid mass sell-offs. Foreigners were not allowed to sell, and traders were not allowed to short sell or bet on price drops.

— Ukrainian authorities have notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that Russian shelling is disrupting worker rotations in and out of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. According to the report, Russian soldiers blasted Ukrainian checkpoints in Slavutych, which is home to many Chernobyl nuclear workers, “placing them in danger and blocking further rotation of staff to and from the site.”

Meanwhile, Kyiv and Moscow provided contradictory reports of the persons being moved to Russia, including whether they went willingly — as Russia claimed — or were forced or lied to.

The nearly 400,000 persons evacuated to Russia, according to Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, were given with lodging and compensation and had voluntarily departed eastern Ukraine.

“People are being forcibly transferred into the territory of the aggressor state,” Donetsk Region Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko warned.

6,000 Mariupol residents were among those kidnapped, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. Mariupol is a devastated port city in the country’s east.

Residents of Mariupol have been deprived of information for a long time, according to Kyrylenko, and the Russians feed them false reports about Ukraine’s setbacks in order to urge them to relocate to Russia.

“Russian disinformation have the potential to sway folks who have been under siege,” he said.

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