The deadly attack on the Mariupol theater “a manifest war crime”

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, civilians began fleeing their homes as towns and villages came under military attack. In beleaguered Mariupol in the Donetsk region, the theater has become a safe haven for civilians seeking shelter from the fighting.

The theatre, in the city’s Tsentralnyi district, was a hub for the distribution of medicine, food and water, and a designated assembly point for people hoping to be evacuated via humanitarian corridors. The building was clearly recognizable as a civilian object, perhaps more so than any other place in the city.

Residents had also written the giant Cyrillic letters “Дети” – Russian for “children” – on the forecourts on either side of the building, which would have been clearly visible to Russian pilots and also in satellite imagery.

Nevertheless, Russian bombs hit the theater shortly after 10 a.m. on March 16, producing a large explosion that caused the roof and huge portions of two main walls to collapse. At the time of the attack, hundreds of civilians were in and around the theater.

Amnesty International estimates that at least a dozen people were killed by the strike and likely many more, and many others were seriously injured. This estimate is lower than previous counts, reflecting the fact that a large number of people had left the theater in the two days before the attack, and most of those who remained were in the basement of the theater and in other areas protected from all shock. from the explosion.

When the bombs detonated, they destroyed adjacent interior walls along the sides of the performance space, then pierced the exterior load-bearing walls, creating two main debris fields on the northeast and southwest sides of the building . Both debris fields are visible in satellite images taken just minutes after the strike.

Ihor Moroz, a 50-year-old architect, was nearby when the theater was hit. He told Amnesty International: “It all happened before our eyes. We were 200 or 300 meters away [when] the explosion happened… I heard a plane and the sound of bombs falling. Then we saw the roof [of the theatre] rise up.”

Grigoriy Golovniov, a 51-year-old entrepreneur, said: “I was walking down the street leading to the drama theatre… I heard the sound of an airplane… but at that time I didn’t really pay attention to it because [planes] constantly flying around… I saw the roof of the building explode… It jumped 20 meters then collapsed… then I saw a lot of smoke and rubble… I couldn’t believe my eyes because the theater was a sanctuary. There were two large “kids” signs.

Vitaliy Kontarov, a 48-year-old truck driver, was also near the theater at the time of the attack. He told Amnesty International: “We heard planes…I saw two missiles fired from a plane towards the theatre.

Comments are closed.