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Historic Theater Sheltering Mariupol Civilians Hit By Air Strike, Number Of Casualties Unknown.

PHOTO GALLERY: Historic Mariupol Theater Hit By Air Strike

PHOTO GALLERY: Historic Mariupol Theater Hit By Air Strike

Russia has destroyed a historic theater in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol which was being used as a bomb shelter by hundreds of civilians, Ukrainian authorities said on March 16.
Up to 1,200 people may have been inside the theater, the city's deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov said. The number of casualties is currently unknown, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. City authorities are trying to establish the number of casualties but said they are being hampered by continued Russian shelling in nearby neighborhoods. "Another horrendous war crime in Mariupol. Massive Russian attack on the Drama Theatre where hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding. The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter," Kuleba tweeted. Despite ample, concrete evidence of Russian attacks on civilian areas documented by reporters, including RFE/RL correspondents on the ground, Moscow denies targeting civilian areas. The Russian Defense Ministry accused the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia, of blowing up the theater. It gave no evidence to back up the claim. Ukraine's strategic port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov has been encircled by Russian forces, with an estimated 300,000 people trapped with no running water, electricity or gas. Some 400 staff and patients are still being held inside a Mariupol hospital, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and BBC

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