August 20, 2022

The airstrike was one of the deadliest events of the war

An airstrike on a Mariupol theatre may have been much deadlier than previously thought, with evidence suggesting some 600 people were killed in the attack.

The theatre had been used to shelter civilians in the besieged city, but was bombed by Russian forces on March 16.

Ukrainian authorities had initially claimed that around 300 people had been killed in the airstrike.

However an investigation from the Associated Press has suggested the actual number of victims could be double that.

Using the accounts of survivors and rescuers, AP constructed a 3D model of the theatre’s floor plan and recreated what happened inside the theatre on the day of the attack.

Survivors of the incident said around 1,000 people were inside the building at the time of the airstrike.

The theatre’s stage manager, Elena Bila, said: “When people came in, they thought they were safe. In fact, they weren’t safe.”

Before the attack, Russian shells also struck a maternity ward in the city, killing three women, including one child.

Mariupol has been one of the worst-affected cities in Ukraine throughout the conflict.

The city has been under heavy bombardment for months with large parts now reduced to rubble by Russian shells.

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While the majority of civilians have since evacuated the city, around 200 are thought to have taken shelter in the Azovstal steel works.

Russian forces have begun an offensive on the stronghold and efforts are underway to evacuate the last remaining civilians from the city and the steel works.

On Tuesday, the Red Cross said they had managed to secure the safe passage of “several dozen civilians” out of the Azovstal plant.

The ICRC President Peter Maurer said: “It is an immense relief that some civilians who have suffered for weeks are now out.

“The ICRC hasn’t forgotten the people who are still there, nor those in other areas affected by the hostilities or those in dire need of humanitarian relief, wherever they are. We will not spare any effort to reach them.”

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