KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Rescue workers searched for survivors Thursday in the ruins of a theater destroyed by a Russian airstrike in the besieged city of Mariupol, while dozens of Ukrainians across the country were killed in ferocious urban attacks on a school, hostel and other sites.
Hundreds of civilians had taken refuge in the large columned theater in central Mariupol after their homes were destroyed in three weeks of fighting in the southern port city of 430,000 people.
More than a day after the airstrike, no deaths have been reported. With communications down throughout the city and travel difficult due to shelling and other fighting, there were also conflicting reports as to whether anyone had emerged from the rubble.
“We hope and believe that some people who stayed in the shelter under the theater might survive,” Petro Andrushchenko, an official in the mayor’s office, told The Associated Press. He said the building had a relatively modern bomb shelter designed to withstand airstrikes.
Other officials had said earlier that some people had walked out. Ukrainian mediator Ludmyla Denisova said on the Telegram messaging app that the shelter had held up.
Satellite imagery from Maxar Technology on Monday showed huge white letters on the sidewalk in front and behind the theater spelling out ‘CHILDREN’ in Russian – ‘DETI’ – to alert warplanes of those inside. interior.
Across the city, flurries fell around the skeletons of scorched apartment buildings, windowless and scarred by shrapnel as smoke rose above the horizon.
“We are trying to survive somehow,” said a Mariupol resident, who gave only her first name, Elena. “My child is hungry. I don’t know what to feed him.
She had tried to call her mother, who was in a town 80 kilometers away. “I can’t tell him I’m alive, you understand. There’s no connection, just nothing,” she said.
Cars, some with the “Z” symbol of the Russian invasion force on their windows, drove past piles of crates of ammunition and artillery shells in a neighborhood controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
The Russian military denied bombing the theater or anywhere else in Mariupol on Wednesday.
The strike against the theater was part of a furious bombardment of civilian sites in several cities over the past few days.
In the northern city of Chernihiv, at least 53 people have been taken to morgues in the past 24 hours, killed amid heavy Russian airstrikes and ground fire, local governor Viacheslav Chaus told reporters on Thursday. Ukrainian television.
Ukrainian emergency services said a mother, father and three of their children, including 3-year-old twins, were killed when a home in Chernihiv was bombed.
Civilians were hiding in basements and shelters across the beleaguered city of 280,000,
“The city has never seen such nightmarish and colossal loss and destruction,” Chaus said.
At least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and community center before dawn in Merefa, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, according to Mayor Veniamin Sitov. The area saw heavy shelling in an attempt to advance stalled Russian forces.
In eastern Ukraine, a municipal pool complex where pregnant women and women with children took refuge was also hit on Wednesday, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration. There was no word on the victims of this strike.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more help for his country in a video address to German lawmakers, saying thousands of people had been killed, including 108 children. He also referred to the dire situation in Mariupol, saying, “Everything is a target for them.”
The address began with a delay due to a technical problem caused by an attack near where Zelenskyy was speaking, Bundestag Vice President Katrin Goering-Eckardt said.
Zelenskyy’s office said Russian airstrikes hit the Kalynivka and Brovary suburbs of the capital, Kyiv. Emergency authorities in kyiv said a fire broke out in a 16-storey building hit by the remnants of a downed Russian rocket and one person was killed.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday on the crisis.
In a joint statement, foreign ministers from major Group of Seven economies accused Putin of waging an “unprovoked and shameful war” and called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to halt his attack and withdraw his forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television Wednesday to castigate Russians who do not support him.
Russians “will always be able to distinguish true patriots from garbage and traitors and simply spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths,” Putin said, using language reminiscent of the Stalin era. “I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country.”
He said the West is using a “fifth column” of traitorous Russians to create civil unrest. “And there is only one goal, I have already spoken about it – the destruction of Russia,” he said.
The speech appeared to be a warning that his authoritarian rule, which had already grown stronger since the invasion began on February 24, could become even more repressive.
In a sign of this, Russian law enforcement announced the first known criminal cases under a new law that allows for 15-year prison sentences for publishing what is considered “false information” about the war. Among those charged was Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a Russian-language cookbook author and blogger living abroad.
Ukraine and Russia reported progress in the negotiations this week. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that some negotiators were splitting into working groups, “but there should be contacts today.”
The talks were held via video on Wednesday. An official in Zelenskyy’s office told the AP that the main topic of discussion was whether Russian troops would remain in the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine insisted on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on legally binding security guarantees for the Ukraine.
In exchange, the official said, Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral military status.
Russia demanded that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine into the alliance or station forces there.
The fighting has driven more than 3 million people to flee Ukraine, the UN estimates. The death toll remains unknown, although Ukraine said thousands of civilians had died.
Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau, in Lviv, Ukraine, and other AP reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine