People sheltering in a theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are emerging from the building after it was bombed, the former head of the Donetsk region said Thursday.
Hundreds of people were thought to have taken shelter in the theater amid the ongoing Russian siege of Mariupol. Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in the coastal city and as many as 2,500 civilians have died in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials estimate.
“After an awful night of not knowing, we finally have good news from Mariupol on the morning of the 22nd day of the war. The bomb shelter [of the theatre] was able to hold. The rubble is beginning to be cleared. People are coming out alive,” the former Donetsk region head Sergei Taruta wrote in a Facebook post Thursday.
It was not yet clear whether all those who sheltered in the theater had survived.
After the bombing on Wednesday, Mariupol City Council shared an image of the building and said Russian forces had “purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol.”
CNN has geolocated the image and confirmed it is of the theater in the southeastern port city. The word “children” was spelled out on two sides of the theater before it was bombed, according to satellite images.
Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleskii Reznikov said on Thursday that the Russian who carried out the bombing was a “monster,” and stressed the presence of children in the building.
“You’ve probably already heard that this theater which was struck by missiles, a theater where 1,200 women and children were hiding,” Reznikov told the European Parliament via video link.
“And you can see from the maps, from the drones that around this theater, big letters of ‘children’ were written so that the pilot of the plane which was throwing the bombs could see ‘children’, and still, in spite of that, this monster has bombed the theater.”
Maxim Kach, a Mariupol city government official, said the building was for civilians, with only women and young children hiding within it and not military personnel, while an adviser to the government said it was the largest shelter in Mariupol.
Residents who escaped the city told CNN conditions were “unbearable” and “hell,” with constant shelling, reports of people being held captive in a hospital and residents left without water, electricity or heat.
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