Officials claimed Russian artillery damaged additional civilian structures in another frontline city on Thursday, as Ukrainian authorities sought to ascertain the fate of hundreds of civilians who had been sheltering in a theater wrecked by a Russian airstrike in the beleaguered city of Mariupol.
After the strike on Wednesday evening, a whole piece of the enormous, three-story theater collapsed, according to a photo issued by Mariupol’s municipal council. Hundreds of people have sought sanctuary in the structure, seeking protection from Russia’s three-week siege of the important Azov Sea port city.
According to photographs supplied by the Maxar space technology business, the pavement in front of and behind the once-elegant theater was marked with enormous white lettering spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian as recently as Monday.
The entrance to the refuge had been hidden by rubble inside the theater, and the number of individuals dead or injured remained unknown, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the chairman of the Donetsk regional administration, who spoke on Telegram.
According to Kyrylenko, Russian aircraft also targeted a municipal swimming pool complex in Mariupol, where residents, including women and children, had sought refuge. “Now there are pregnant ladies and mothers with children under the debris,” he said, while the exact number of victims was unknown at the time.
“What Russia is doing to our people breaks my heart,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated following the theater strike on Wednesday night. He had just made a video message to the United States Congress, which received multiple standing ovations as he appealed for additional assistance.
According to Merefa mayor Veniamin Sitov, Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community center in Merefa, a city near the northeast city of Kharkiv, on Thursday. There were no civilians killed or injured. As halted Russian soldiers try to advance in the area, the Kharkiv region has been bombarded heavily.
Six countries have requested a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Ukraine on Thursday afternoon, ahead of a vote on a Russian resolution requesting protection for Ukrainian civilians “in hazardous situations,” but making no mention of Moscow’s role in the conflict.
“Russia is committing war crimes and attacking people,” the United Kingdom’s United Nations Mission said in a tweet announcing the demand for the meeting, which also included the United States, France, and others. “Russia’s illegitimate war against Ukraine poses a threat to all of us.”
Russian attacks have wreaked havoc on cities and villages across Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, where citizens have sought refuge in houses and shelters.
According to emergency services, a fire broke out in a Kyiv apartment building early Thursday after it was hit by the fragments of a landed Russian missile, killing one person and wounding at least three others. 30 people were evacuated from the upper levels of the 16-story structure, and the fire was put out within an hour.
Even as both sides professed confidence about efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television on Wednesday to chastise Russians who do not support him.
“Russians will always be able to differentiate real patriots from filth and traitors, and will simply spit them out like a gnat that landed in their mouth by accident,” he stated. “I am confident that such a necessary and natural purifying of society would only benefit our country.”
He said that the West is inciting public upheaval by utilizing a “fifth column” of treacherous Russians.
“And there is just one aim, which I have previously stated: the annihilation of Russia,” he added.
The statement looked to be a warning that his autocratic reign, which had already tightened since the invasion began on February 24, with the closure of Russian news sources and the imprisonment of demonstrators, may become much more restrictive.
As a result, Russian law enforcement has announced the first known criminal charges under a new rule that allows for 15-year jail sentences for spreading “false information” concerning the Ukraine conflict. Veronika Belotserkovskaya, a Russian-language cookbook author and blogger living in the United States, was among those indicted.
However, it occurred amid evidence that the discussions were finally moving forward.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed the two sides were “seriously discussing” a neutral military position for Ukraine, while Zelenskyy said Russia’s demands for an end to the war were becoming “more feasible.”
The videotaped conversations on Wednesday appeared to go deeper into details.
Ukraine sought a cease-fire, the removal of Russian soldiers, and security assurances from many nations, according to Zelenskyy advisor Mikhailo Podolyak.
He wrote, “This is only feasible through direct discussion” between Zelenskyy and Putin.
The major topic of discussion, according to a source in Zelenskyy’s office, was whether Russian forces would remain in separatist districts in eastern Ukraine after the fighting ended and where the borders would be.
Ukraine is pushing on the presence of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations, as well as a legally binding treaty with security assurances for Ukraine, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate talks. Ukraine was willing to consider a neutral position in exchange, according to the diplomat.
Russia has demanded that NATO promise that Ukraine will never be admitted to the alliance or that NATO soldiers will be stationed there.
Earlier on Wednesday, Zelenskyy appeared before the US Congress via video and begged with America for more weaponry and stiffer sanctions against Russia, using Pearl Harbor and 9/11 as examples, stating, “We need you right now.”
Despite the fact that Moscow’s ground assault on Kiev looked to be mostly stopped, Putin earlier stated the operation was going “successfully, in strict conformity with pre-approved plans.” He also criticized Western sanctions against Moscow, accusing them of attempting to “squeeze us, put pressure on us, transform us into a weak, dependent country.”
According to the United Nations, more than 3 million people have fled Ukraine as a result of the violence. Although Ukraine claims hundreds of people have killed, the death toll remains unknown.
The surrounded city of Mariupol, where local officials believe missile attacks and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people, has suffered the worst. The southern seaport, which has a population of 430,000 people, has been under siege for virtually the whole three-week battle, leaving residents without food, water, heat, or medication.
Dr. Valeriy Drengar peeled back a blanket to reveal the body of a 22-day-old newborn, using the flashlight on his iPhone to illuminate a hospital basement. Children looked to be entwined around other corpses.
“These are the folks we were unable to save,” stated Drengar.