Ukraine says 300 dead in theatrical attack, starvation gripping cities

Kiev, Ukraine (AP) – About 300 people were killed in the Russian airstrike that opened a theater in Mariupol last week, Ukrainian authorities said on Friday, making it the deadliest ever known attack on civilians in the world war. until today.

In a vain attempt to protect the hundreds of people hiding inside the theater, “CHILDREN” in Russian had been printed on the ground in giant white letters in two places outside the tall pillared building to make it visible from above.

For days, the government of the besieged and run-down city of Mariupol was unable to name the death toll from the March 16 attack.. When she announced the death toll on her he Telegram channel on Friday, she cited eyewitnesses. However, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the rescuers had finished excavating the ruins of the Mariupol Drama Theater or how the witnesses had gotten to the character.

But the emerging picture will certainly fuel allegations that Moscow committed war crimes by killing civilians, intentionally or by shooting indiscriminately. And that could increase the pressure on NATO to increase its military aid. Fearing war with Russia, the alliance has so far refused to supply fighter jets or establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

National Security Advisor to US President Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan, said on Friday that the response to the theater bombing was “nothing but an absolute shock, especially since it was clearly a ‘civilian target’. He said he showed “a shameless disregard for the lives of innocent people”.

The extent of the devastation in Mariupol, where the bodies were not buried surrounded by bomb craters and excavated buildings made it difficult to obtain information.

But shortly after the attack, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner said more than 1,300 people had fled to the theater, many of them because their homes had been destroyed. The building had a bomb shelter in the basement, and some survivors emerged from the rubble after the attack.

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The death toll came the day after Biden and allied leaders promised further military aid was on its way to Ukraine. But they failed to deliver some of the heavy weapons that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said was absolutely necessary. Zelenskky supported planes, tanks and no-fly patrols over Ukraine.

The United States and the European Union announced on Friday their decision to further rationalize Russia economically: a partnership to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. and drain the billions of dollars the Kremlin earns by selling fuel.

Moscow is angry at the tightening of sanctions against the Russian economy and President Vladimir Putin’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described Western pressure as “a true hybrid war, an all-out war”.

“And the doors aren’t hidden,” he continued. “They are publicly declared – to destroy, break, annihilate, strangle the Russian economy and Russia as a whole.”

In Ukrainian cities, which increasingly resemble the ruins left by Russian forces on their campaigns in Syria and Chechnya, the plight of civilians is becoming more acute.

In the capital Kiev, the ashes of the dead accumulate in the main crematorium because so many relatives have left and the urns have not been collected. The besieged northern city of Chernihiv is now virtually isolated.

Chernihiv lost its main road bridge over the Desna River to a Russian air strike for the first time this week. Subsequent bombings damaged a footbridge and left the city’s remaining residents without electricity, water and heating, authorities said. More than half of Chernihiv’s 285,000 residents are believed to have fled the war.

For other developments:

– Russia has said it will offer safe passage to 67 ships from 15 countries blocked in Ukrainian ports due to the threat of bombings and mines from Friday.

– The International Atomic Energy Agency said Ukrainian authorities said Russian bombing would prevent the rotation of workers in and out of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

– According to the Interfax news agency, the Russian military claimed to have destroyed a huge Ukrainian fuel base used to supply defenses in the Kiev region, with ships firing a barrage of cruise missiles. Social media videos showed a huge fireball near the capital.

For the most vulnerable – the elderly, children and others unable to join the millions moving west – food shortages threaten in a land once known as the granary of the world.

This week in relentlessly bombed Kharkiv, mostly elderly women stood stoically in line to collect food and other necessities when explosions were heard in the distance. Trembling with anticipation, a young girl watched a volunteer’s knife cut a giant slice of cheese, cutting thick slices, one for each hungry person.

Hanna Spitsyna was responsible for the distribution of food from the Ukrainian Red Cross. Those who waited were given a piece of cheese, which was placed in plastic bags that the people in line kept open.

“Among those who are left, there are people who can walk alone, but also many who cannot walk, elderly people,” Hanna said. “All these people need nappies, nappies and food.”

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Rosa reported from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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