Chris Lange, FISM News
Rescue workers in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine continue their search for survivors among the rubble of a theater blown apart by Russian airstrikes Thursday where hundreds of civilians had been sheltering.
Communications have been severely hampered in the region as a result of ongoing attacks, resulting in conflicting reports concerning the number of casualties. Satellite imagery showed that Ukrainian forces had painted the Russian word for “children” in huge letters outside the theater prior to the strike in an effort to caution Russian warplanes that civilians were inside the building, making the attack all the more shocking as Kremlin forces continue to deliberately inflict as much terror, death, and destruction as possible on the people of Ukraine.
“We hope and we think that some people who stayed in the shelter under the theater could survive,” Petro Andrushchenko, an official with the mayor’s office, told The Associated Press.
Widely-circulated images of the aftermath from the airstrikes show that only a roofless shell remains of the once columned and embellished three-story structure, but Andrushchenko said the building’s basement bomb shelter was designed to withstand airstrikes.
In a bit of positive news, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Italy’s Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities Dario Franceschini who offered to rebuild the theater.
Thanks @dariofrance. You set a good example to follow. Together we will rebuild the country to the last brick. https://t.co/ZPplHWVpAl
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 17, 2022
Those who remain trapped inside the city have been without food, water, medical supplies, and power for three weeks.
“We are trying to survive somehow,” a Mariupol woman told an AP reporter on the ground Thursday. “My child is hungry. I don’t know what to give him to eat.”
Meanwhile, scores of new civilian casualties were reported throughout other residential communities overnight, including attacks on a school, a hostel, and other civilian-populated sites.
At least 53 people have been brought to morgues in the northern city of Chernihiv over the past 24 hours as a result of heavy airstrikes and ground fire, Governor Viacheslav Chaus told a Ukrainian TV station on Thursday. A mother, father, and their three children, including 3-year-old twins, were among the dead, killed when a hostel in which they were hiding was shelled. Ten people, including an American, were gunned down in the Chernihiv Wednesday as they stood in line for bread.
Meanwhile, at least 21 people were killed and 25 wounded overnight in Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, when Russian strikes obliterated a school and community center using high-precision weaponry, according to Mayor Veniamin Sitov and several Ukrainian news outlets. Stalled Russian forces outside hard-hit Kharkiv have stepped up attacks in the region amid their struggle to advance further.
⚡️21 killed, 25 injured in Russian attack of Merefa, Kharkiv Oblast.
10 people are in critical condition, Kharkiv Oblast Prosecutor’s Office reported. The city of Merefawas shelled on March 17. A local school and community center were destroyed.
📷Kharkiv Oblast Police pic.twitter.com/EHMnklpgzu
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 17, 2022
A municipal pool complex where pregnant women and mothers with children had taken shelter was also struck early Friday, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration. There has been no word on casualties in that strike.
Kremlin forces renewed their strikes inside Kyiv from a distance as they continue inching their way toward the capital’s center. The suburbs of Kalynivka and Brovary were hit, and Kyiv Emergency authorities said a fire broke out in a 16-story apartment building hit by remnants of a downed Russian rocket, killing one person. Two others were killed and six wounded by an airstrike in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast.
⚡️State Emergency Services of Kyiv: The morning of 18th March in the Podolsk district. pic.twitter.com/MGMIXLPEaF
— Ukraine: breaking news (@breakingnews_ua) March 18, 2022
At a Thursday meeting of the U.N. Security Council, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities in Ukraine, killing 12 and wounding 34, as reported by the Associated Press. Tedros said disruption to hospital services poses an extreme risk to people with serious illnesses, adding that “the lifesaving medicine we need right now is peace.”