More than 1,300 people including women and babies are still feared trapped in the bombed ruins of a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol as rescue efforts are hampered by constant Russian shelling.
The helpless casualties were yesterday forced to spend a third night entombed in the basement of the destroyed Drama Theatre which was hit by Vladimir Putin’s forces on Wednesday.
Their prospects of survival are growing bleaker by the day, with no supplies and Russian troops firing at rescuers trying to dig through the rubble.
Last night a local MP said those inside were forced to dig from within the wreckage because rescue attempts had been thwarted by ongoing airstrikes.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who branded Russia’s attack as ‘outright terror’, last night vowed to continue the rescue mission.
‘Hundreds of Mariupol residents are still under the debris. Despite the shelling, despite all the difficulties, we will continue the rescue work,’ he said.
Russian troops have now reached the city centre and civilians remain hiding in bunkers while fighters battle on the streets.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said: ‘Tanks and machine gun battles continue. There’s no city centre left. There isn’t a small piece of land in the city that doesn’t have signs of war.’
The devastating losses across Ukraine have sparked a poignant protest in Lviv, where 109 empty prams were arranged in solemn rows to mark the number of children killed since Russia invaded.
More than 1,300 people including women and babies are still feared trapped in the bombed ruins of a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol (pictured)
The helpless casualties were yesterday forced to spend a third night entombed in the basement of the destroyed Drama Theatre which was hit by Vladimir Putin’s forces on Wednesday
Residents are seen on the street after emerging from bomb shelters, gathering their belongings as they prepare to flee the city
109 empty baby carriages on display in Lviv city center for the 109 babies killed so far during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Pictured: The aftermath of a theatre in the encircled Ukrainian port city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were sheltering on Wednesday March 16
A woman and her baby are pictured fleeing the city of Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor that was opened on Thursday, though previous attempts have failed after Russians shelled the routes
Local residents seeking refuge in the basement of a building are seen in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
Local authorities said more than 130 survivors have emerged from the rubble of the Mariupol theatre which was being used as the ravaged port city’s biggest civilian bomb shelter.
But they said that those saved represented just one tenth of the civilians still trapped within the refuge which miraculously withstood the blast.
Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Lyudmyla Denisova said: ‘According to our data there are still more than 1,300 people there who are in these basements, in that bomb shelter. We pray that they will be alive but so far there is no information about them.’
Former governor MP Serhiy Taruta said he fears many survivors will die because the city’s emergency services have been destroyed by Russian troops.
‘Services that are supposed to help are demolished, rescue and utility services are physically destroyed. This means that all the survivors of the bombing will either die under the ruins of the theatre, or have already died,’ he wrote on Facebook.
An aerial view shows smoke rising from damaged residential buildings following an explosion in Mariupol on Friday
An aerial view shows residential buildings which were damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
A woman weeps after seeing the ruins of her destroyed block of flat in Mariupol, which is under bombardment by Russia
Women seek refuge in the basement of a building in Mariupol, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks
A heavily bombed building is seen in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after being destroyed by Russian shelling of the city
The haunting spectacle shows the human tragedy at the centre of the conflict: Families torn apart by war
In its sunlit cobbled central square, one Ukrainian city hosts a poignant protest at the innocent lives lost in the fighting
Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict sit in a damaged car as they wait in a line to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol
He said those trapped had been left to dig their way out of the collapsed three-storey building.
‘People are doing everything themselves. My friends went to help but due to constant shelling it was not safe.’
However Mariupol MP Dmytro Gurin insisted that while the rescue mission had been hampered by constant Russian attacks, efforts were still under way.
One woman said the strike had taken place while those sheltering beneath the theatre were cooking and only around 100 had time to flee.
Nick Osychenko, the CEO of a Mariupol TV station, said as he fled the city with six members of his family, aged between 4 and 61, he saw dead bodies on nearly every block.
‘We were careful and didn’t want the children to see the bodies, so we tried to shield their eyes,’ he said. ‘We were nervous the whole journey. It was frightening, just frightening.’
Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while ‘hundreds’ of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly ‘liberating’ civilians
Video released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers
Russia has denied responsibility for the devastating strike which was branded a ‘war crime’ and sparked global outrage.
After an agonising first night of uncertainty following the bombing, Ukrainian officials revealed on Thursday that they were hopeful that the majority within had survived.
Rescuers said that while the entrance to the basement had caved in, the relatively modern shelter had remained intact.
But Miss Denisova said that while some had survived, the situation remained unclear.
She said there was ‘currently no information about the dead or wounded under the rubble’ and called the attack ‘an act of genocide and a terrible crime against humanity’.
Ukraine’s Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov branded the Russian pilot behind the bombing a ‘monster’.
Vladimir Putin has given a tub-thumping address to tens of thousands of Russians gathered at Moscow’s world cup stadium, celebrating his invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and drumming up support for his new war
Putin spoke in front of a crowd tens of thousands strong at the Luzhniki World Cup stadium in Moscow, one of the few times he has been seen in public since launching his invasion 23 days ago
Putin used the rally to peddle falsehoods about why the war started and to shill a narrative of Russia’s battlefield success, speaking of ‘how our guys are fighting during this operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping each other’
Putin called the rally to mark the eighth anniversary of ‘annexing’ Crimea, speaking of ‘de-Nazifying’ the peninsula and of debunked claims of ‘genocide’ in the Donbass
But the Kremlin’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya yesterday denied that Russia had targeted the shelter.
Meanwhile feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in the besieged port city.
Video said to have been released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers.
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly ‘liberating’ civilians.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that its troops have now entered the city and are fighting in the centre, amid fears that it could soon fall into Putin’s hands after three weeks of shelling weakened the defences. If the city does fall, it will be the largest captured so-far – albeit at the cost of near-totally destroying it.
Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week, described how she spent days sheltering in a school building – melting snow to cook pasta to eat while living in constant terror of Russian bombs which flew overhead ‘every day and every night’.
She described how a bomb hit the school last week, wounding a woman in the hip with a piece of shrapnel. ‘She was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed for poison so that she would not feel pain,’ Svitlana said. ‘[She] was taken by the Red Cross within a day, I pray to God she is well.’
She added: ‘There is no food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out to get water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores – everything is robbed or burned.
‘The dead are not taken out. Police recommend to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony. I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine, or of the world.’
Despite the pleas, shelling was well underway in other Ukrainian cities on Friday – with Lviv, in the west of the country, the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv, in the east, coming under fire.
The war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin ground into its fourth week as his troops have failed to take Kyiv – a major objective in their hopes of forcing a settlement or dictating the country’s future political alignments.
But back home in Moscow, Putin today gave a tub-thumping speech to tens of thousands of banner-waving Russians in an attempt to drum up support for his stalled invasion.
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