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Survivors have started emerging from the blown-up theater where more than 1,000 Ukrainians, including children, were sheltering in Mariupol — but rescue attempts have been largely thwarted by ongoing Russian airstrikes, authorities said Thursday.
“It’s a miracle,” Kyiv Independent reporter Illia Ponomarenko tweeted Thursday as he reported survivors “getting evacuated from underneath the ruins.”
The local council in Mariupol — the hardest-hit city during Russia’s three-week war — said that more than 1,000 mostly women and children had taken shelter in the theater that was bombed Wednesday.
Satellite images showed that “CHILDREN” was written in large letters in Russian on the pavement in front of and behind the once-elegant theater — and local TV had reported about its role as a mass shelter less than an hour before the attack, the BBC said.
While the three-story building appeared to have been razed, “the bomb shelter held,” mayoral adviser Petro Andrushchenko told Reuters by phone.
“Now the rubble is being cleared. There are survivors,” he said, saying they do not yet know how many survived.
Ukrainian parliament member Sergiy Taruta also noted in a Facebook post that people were coming out alive, writing, “Finally good news from Mariupol!”
Kyrylenko said Russian airstrikes also hit a municipal swimming pool complex in Mariupol as well as the theater, which he said had been a “sanctuary” from the continuous shelling
“Now there are pregnant women and women with children under the rubble there. It’s pure terrorism!” the official said.
Rescuers have struggled to get to the seemingly intact bomb shelter because the entrance was destroyed — and because of the ongoing attacks on a city the Red Cross already said was “apocalyptic.”
“It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act, because the city continues to shell residential areas,” the city council wrote on Telegram.
“It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of cruelty … It is obvious that the only goal of the Russian army is the genocide of the Ukrainian people,” the council said.
In his latest video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “Russian aircraft purposefully dropped a huge bomb” on the theater.
“Citizens of Russia! How is your blockade of Mariupol different from the blockade of Leningrad during World War II? ” he asked.
His office also reported artillery and air strikes around the country overnight, including in the Kalynivka and Brovary suburbs of the capital, Kyiv.
Ukraine says Russian forces are increasingly resorting to artillery and air strikes as their advance stalls.
The Ukrainian General Staff says “the enemy, without success in its ground operation, continues to carry out rocket and bomb attacks on infrastructure and highly populated areas of Ukrainian cities.”
Despite the clear evidence, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday dismissed the theater bombing as a “lie.”
“Russia’s armed forces don’t bomb towns and cities,” she told a briefing.
With Post wires