300 dead in Russian airstrike on theater in Mariupol: officials

The government of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol says 300 people died in a Russian airstrike on March 16 on a theater used as a bomb shelter.

The message posted on the city government’s Telegram channel on Friday cited eyewitnesses for the death toll of around 300 people.

It was not immediately clear whether rescuers were finished searching the site or how eyewitnesses arrived at the horrific death toll.

When the theater was hit, a huge sign reading CHILDREN was posted outside in Russian, meant to be visible from the sky above.

Shortly after the airstrike, Ludmyla Denisova, Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, said more than 1,300 people had taken refuge in the building.

As Russia relentlessly besieges and hammers Ukrainian cities, nearly everyone who can tries to leave and those who stay are facing desperate food shortages in a country once known as the breadbasket of the world.

In the bombed city of Kharkiv, mostly older women have come to collect food and other urgent supplies.

In the capital of kyiv, the ashes of the dead are piling up at the main crematorium because so many loved ones have left, leaving urns unclaimed.

For civilians unable to join the flood of refugees from Ukraine, the days of plenty in the country are but a fading memory as the war enters a second month.

As Ukrainian soldiers fought the invading Russian force to near stalemate in many places and the President urged people to stand firm, the United States and European Union announced a decision to tighten more Russia: a new partnership to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy and slowly squeeze the billions of dollars the Kremlin makes from the sale of fossil fuels.

In Ukraine, the war for starving civilians is increasingly counting in precious portions of food, and the block of cheese now goes a long way.

Agitated with anticipation, a young girl in Kharkiv this week watched intently as a volunteer’s knife cut through a giant slice of cheese, cutting out thick slices one for each hungry person stoically waiting in line.

Hanna Spitsyna was responsible for dispatching food aid from the Ukrainian Red Cross and distributing it to her neighbours. Each was given a piece of cheese which was cut under the child’s watchful gaze, dropped piece by piece into plastic bags that people in line held open like hungry mouths.

They gave us help, they gave us help for the elderly women who stayed here,” Spitsyna said. All of these people need diapers, swaddling blankets and food.

Unable to sweep with lightning speed into kyiv, their apparent objective on February 24 when the Kremlin launched the war, Russian forces instead rain shells and missiles on towns from afar.

The outskirts of Kharkiv were shrouded in hazy smoke on Friday, with constant shelling since early morning.

At a city hospital, several wounded soldiers arrived with gunshot and shrapnel wounds a day after medics treated about 10 civilians. Even as doctors stabilized the most serious case, the sound of shelling could be heard in the operating room.

The Russian military claimed on Friday that it had destroyed a huge Ukrainian fuel base used to supply defenses in the kyiv region, with ships firing a salvo of cruise missiles, according to the Interfax news agency. Videos on social media showed a huge fireball explosion near the capital.

For civilians, misery has become relentless. Kyiv, like other cities, has seen its population drastically reduced in the vast refugee crisis which has seen more than 10 million displaced and at least 3.5 million people flee the country altogether.

In the capital, more than 260 civilians have died and more than 80 buildings have been destroyed since the start of the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his country to maintain its military defense and not to stop for a single minute. Zelenskyy used his late night video address on Thursday to rally Ukrainians to move towards peace, to move forward.

With each day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace we so desperately need. We cannot stop for even a minute, because every minute determines our fate, our future, if we are going to live.

He said thousands of people, including 128 children, died in the first month of the war. Across the country, 230 schools and 155 kindergartens were destroyed. Towns and villages are in ashes, he said.

At an emergency NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, Zelenskyy pleaded with Western allies via video for planes, tanks, rockets, air defense systems and other weapons, saying his country defended our common values.

In a video address to EU leaders, Zelenskyy thanked them for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, including Germany’s decision to stop Russia from delivering gas natural gas to Europe via the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. But he lamented that those steps had not been taken sooner, saying there was a chance Russia had thought twice before invading.

As millions of Ukrainians have fled west, Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of civilians from devastated cities to Russia to pressure kyiv to back down.

Lyudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian mediator, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, had been taken against their will to Russia, where some could be used as hostages to pressure kyiv to surrender.

The Kremlin gave nearly identical numbers for those who were relocated, but said they came from the predominantly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and wanted to go to Russia.

Pro-Moscow separatists have been fighting for control for nearly eight years in those regions, where many have backed close ties to Russia.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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