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Mariupol authorities estimate that 300 people were killed in Russian strike on theater

Mariupol theater seen in the aftermath of the Russian strike in this satellite image from March 19.
Mariupol theater seen in the aftermath of the Russian strike in this satellite image from March 19

Mariupol city council says that based on eyewitness reports, it now believes about 300 people died in a Russian attack on a theater in the city nine days ago. 

The building was being used as one of the main shelters in the besieged city of Mariupol, but was hit by a Russian airstrike on March 16. Estimates of the number of people taking shelter in the theatre ranged from between 800 to 1,300. 

Information about the full extent of the attack has been slow to emerge due to the almost complete breakdown of essential services in the city, including communication networks. 

“Unfortunately, we start the day with bad news,” Mariupol city council said on its Telegram channel on Friday.

“There is information, based on eyewitnesses, that about 300 people died in the Drama Theater in Mariupol as a result of a bombing by Russian aircraft.

“We still do not want to believe in this horror. We still want to believe that everyone managed to escape. But the words of those who were inside the building at the time of this terrorist act say otherwise.”

Aerial pictures before the attack showed the Russian word for children painted in large lettering on the ground outside the front and back of the theater building.

“The occupier knew where he was hitting. He knew what the consequences might be, and anyway the bombs fell on this place,” the city council’s statement continued.

There is still no word on possible casualties after a separate attack on an art school building in Mariupol that was also being used as a shelter.

The school was hit five days ago. Officials estimated about 400 people were sheltering there.

Some context: Mariupol, the southeastern Ukrainian city home to around 450,000 people before the war, has been under near-constant attack from Russian forces since early March with satellite images showing significant destruction to residential areas. 

CNN’s Olena Mankovska and Sugam Pokharel contributed reporting to this post.

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