Russia’s Ukraine Strategy: Kill the Innocent – An airstrike conducted by Russia targeted a theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol where about 1,000 civilians were taking shelter from the bombing. Mariupol has been encircled by Russian forces and has been the subject of intense bombing and shelling since the opening hours of the war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in the city.
The Russians have put the city under siege where the civilian populace has been cut off from food, water, electricity, and heat. Russian artillery and airstrikes have hit apartment blocks, stores, and a hospital complex, including a maternity hospital.
“On 16 March, the Russian air force dropped a powerful bomb on the building of the drama theatre in Mariupol,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a released statement. “The theatre building served as a shelter for hundreds of Mariupol residents who had lost their homes as a result of Russian armed forces bombing and shelling the city.”
“The bomb strike demolished the central part of the theatre building, causing large numbers of people to be buried under the debris. The assessment of the exact number of persons affected is currently impossible due to ongoing shelling,” the ministry added.
“By committing a purposeful bomb attack to the place of mass gathering of civilians, Russia had committed another war crime,” the Ukrainian ministry wrote.
The Mariupol City Council posted a photo of the bombed building, said Russian forces had “purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol.”
“The plane dropped a bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding,” it added. The Russians denied the airstrike and have stated that their forces don’t attack civilians. They accused the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia of carrying out the attack.
Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov said to the BBC that between 1,000 and 1,200 people had sought taken shelter in the theater. The number of casualties is still unknown as the city center is still under continuous shelling and airstrikes.
Images of the theater after the attack showed extensive damage. Satellite images of the theater prior to the attack were posted by Maxar Technologies, which showed the word “children” written in Russian on two sides of the building.
“Another horrendous war crime in Mariupol,” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, in a social media post on Twitter later on Wednesday.
“Massive Russian attack on the Drama Theater where hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding. The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter. Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals!”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the bombing and said Russia had deliberately targeted the theatre.
“Our hearts are broken by what Russia is doing to our people. To our Mariupol,” he said in his nightly video address late Wednesday evening to the Ukrainian people.
President Biden Calls Putin A War Criminal
On Weds. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the U.S. Congress via a video teleconference for more assistance in the fight against the Russian invasion.
The president spoke a few hours after Zelensky’s address to Congress and spelled out the new $800 million aid package to Ukraine and was leaving the event when a reporter asked him for his assessment of the Russian leader. “I think he is a war criminal,” Biden said.
“Putin is inflicting appalling, appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine, bombing apartment buildings, maternity wards, hospitals. I mean, it’s God awful,” the president said. “The world is united in our support for Ukraine and our determination to make Putin pay a very heavy price.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the comment was “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric”, according to the state-run TASS news agency.
“We consider unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric of the head of state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” Peskov said.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.