Some survivors emerge from strike-hit theater in Ukraine – Press Enterprise


Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Survivors emerged Thursday as authorities worked to rescue hundreds of civilians trapped in the basement of a theater blown up by Russian airstrikes in the besieged city of Mariupol, while savage Russian bombings hit dozens in a northern city killed over the past day, the local governor said.

The previous night’s strikes had collapsed much of the large, three- to three-story theater building in central Mariupol into a smoking ruin, according to photos released by the city council. Inside, hundreds of men, women and children — as many as 1,000 according to some officials — had taken refuge in the basement for safety amid Russia’s three-week siege of the strategic southern port city.

Rescuers worked to clear debris that had blocked the entrance to the basement, although fresh strikes were reported from elsewhere in the city on Thursday. Miraculously, the shelter was in place, officials said. “The building withstood the impact of a powerful aerial bomb and protected the lives of people hiding in the air raid shelter,” Ukraine’s ombudsman Ludmyla Denisova said on Thursday via messaging app Telegram.

She and Ukrainian MP Sergiy Taruta said some survivors turned up. “People are coming out alive,” Taruta wrote on Facebook, though he didn’t say how many.

It was not known whether the inmates were injured or dead. Another lawmaker, Lesia Vasylenko, who was on Thursday in a delegation in London visiting Parliament, said there were reports of injuries but no deaths.

As late as Monday at least, giant white letters on the sidewalk in front of and behind the theater spelled “CHILDREN” in Russian to alert warplanes to those inside, according to images released by Maxar Space Technology Company. The Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday denied bombing the theater or any other location in Mariupol.

The strike against the theater was part of a furious bombardment of civilian targets in several cities over the past day. A municipal swimming pool in Mariupol, where pregnant women and women with children took shelter, was also attacked on Wednesday, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration. Hours later there was no word on the casualties of that strike.

In the north, at least 53 people have been taken to morgues in the city of Chernihiv in the past 24 hours and killed in heavy Russian airstrikes, artillery shelling and ground shelling, local governor Viacheslav Chaus told Ukrainian television on Thursday. Ten people were killed while queuing for bread in the city, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on Wednesday. Russia has denied involvement.

Chaus said civilians were hiding in basements and dugouts with no access to utilities in the city of 280,000.

“The city has never seen such nightmarish, colossal loss and destruction,” he said.

Chernihiv, near the border with Belarus and Russia, was among the first Ukrainian cities to be attacked by Russian forces when the invasion began three weeks ago.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more aid to his country in a video address to German lawmakers, saying thousands of people have been killed so far, including 108 children.

He also referred to the dire situation in Mariupol. “Everything is a target for them,” he said, including “a theater where hundreds of people took shelter that was leveled yesterday.”

Because of a technical problem caused by “an attack in the immediate vicinity” of where Selenskyj was speaking, the speech started late, said Deputy Speaker of the Bundestag Katrin Göring-Eckardt.

Zelenskyy’s speech to the Bundestag came a day after he delivered a video speech to the US Congress, which received multiple ovations when he asked for more help.

Zelenskyi’s office said Russia conducted further airstrikes on Mariupol early Thursday and artillery and airstrikes across the country overnight, including in the capital Kyiv’s Kalynivka and Brovary suburbs. There was no immediate information about casualties.

In Kyiv, where residents have huddled in homes and shelters, emergency services said a fire broke out early Thursday at an apartment building hit by the remains of a downed Russian missile, killing one person and injuring at least three . Firefighters evacuated 30 people from the top floors of the 16-story building and extinguished the fire within an hour.

According to Merefa Mayor Veniamin Sitov, Russian artillery destroyed a school and community center in Merefa, a town near the northeastern city of Kharkiv. There were no known civilian casualties. The Kharkiv region has been heavily bombed as stalled Russian forces attempt to advance into the area.

The UN Security Council is due to meet Thursday at the request of six western nations, who have requested an open session on Ukraine ahead of an expected vote on a humanitarian resolution by Russia, which they have slammed for failing to mention Moscow’s war against its smaller neighbor .

“Russia commits war crimes and attacks civilians,” tweeted Britain’s UN mission, announcing the call for the meeting, which was joined by the US, France and others. “Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to all of us.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television on Wednesday to condemn Russians who do not support him.

The Russians “will always be able to tell true patriots from scum and traitors and will just spit them out like a gnat that accidentally got in their mouths,” he said. “I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country.”

He said the West was using a “fifth column” of traitorous Russians to create civil unrest.

“And there is only one goal, I’ve already talked about that – the destruction of Russia,” he said.

The speech appeared to be a warning that his authoritarian rule, which had already intensified since the February 24 invasion began, the closure of Russian news outlets and the arrests of protesters, could become even more repressive.

In a sign of this, Russian law enforcement agencies announced the first known criminal cases under a new law that provides 15-year prison terms for publishing allegedly “false information” about the Ukraine war. Among the accused was Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a Russian-language cookbook author and blogger living abroad.

Both Ukraine and Russia reported some progress in negotiations this week. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said talks should resume in some form on Thursday. Some negotiators broke up into working groups, “but there should be contacts today,” he said during his daily conference call with reporters.

He also said that Moscow “cannot take into account” a ruling by the International Court of Justice ordering Russia to halt its operations in Ukraine, noting that both sides must agree on the implementation of the ruling, and on Russia’s side ” there can be no consent. ”

The talks, held via video on Wednesday, appeared to delve deep into the technical details.

Zelenskyi adviser Mikhailo Podolyak said Ukraine is demanding a ceasefire from several countries, the withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees for Ukraine.

An official in Zelenskyi’s office told The Associated Press that the main topic of discussion was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist areas of eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine insists on involving one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on a legally binding document with security guarantees for Ukraine. In exchange, Ukraine is ready to talk about a neutral military status, the official said.

Russia has called for a NATO commitment never to accept Ukraine into the alliance or to station forces there.

According to UN estimates, the fighting has caused more than three million people to flee Ukraine. The death toll remains unknown, although Ukraine said thousands of civilians died.


Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau of Lviv, Ukraine, and other AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.


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