A satellite image taken Saturday morning show the aftermath of a Russian airstrike on March 16 that blew apart a theatre used as shelter by civilians in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
The Associated Press reported that hundreds of civilians had been taking shelter in the grand, columned theatre in central Mariupol after their homes were destroyed during three weeks of fighting in the southern port city of 430,000 people.
According to Ukrainian officials, 130 people were rescued from under the rubble of the theatre on Friday, March 18. Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova provided the figures in a televised address Friday but said roughly 1,300 people remain trapped under the wreckage.
Russia has denied bombing the theatre.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday, March 17, that the allegation that Russia had bombed the theatre was a “lie,” and repeated Kremlin denials of targetting civilians during its invasion of Ukraine that began Feb. 24.
Satellite images of the theatre taken on Monday, March 14 — before it was struck — show a large structure with a red roof and the Russian word for “children” painted in large white letters on the tarmac at the front and back.
Mariupol, with its strategic location on the coast of the Sea of Azov, has been a target since the start of the war.
The city lies on the route between the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea to the west, and the Donetsk region to the east, which is partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The Associated Press reported that over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired on eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket and heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s National Police said on Telegram Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged and dozens of civilians were killed or injured as a result of the attacks. It said the Russian military was firing on Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka and Stepne.
The statement said, “among the civilian objects that Russia destroyed are multistory and private houses, a school, a kindergarten, a museum, a shopping center and administrative buildings.”
The northwestern suburbs of the Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, were also under Russian fire on Saturday. The Kyiv regional administration reported that the city of Slavutich, north of the capital, was “completely isolated,” and that Russian military equipment was spotted northeast and east of Kyiv.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, also announced Saturday that 10 humanitarian corridors have been agreed upon with the Russians.
They include a corridor from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Luhansk region.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that Russian forces are blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will be forced to cooperate. He said the Russians are preventing food and other supplies from reaching surrounded cities in central and southeastern Ukraine.
Satellite images on Friday from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelenskyy said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city on Thursday, March 17.
-With files from The Associated Press and Global’s Aaron D’Andrea