Three hundred people are feared to have died in a Russian bombardment of a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol, according to reports on Friday.
Russia Ukraine War Neutrality Explainer© Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Russia Ukraine War Neutrality Explainer
Mariupol City Council was said to have put out the grim news from eyewitness accounts, which could not be confirmed.
The civic leaders were reported as saying: “Unfortunately, we start this day with bad news.
“From eyewitnesses, information appeared that about 300 people died in the Drama Theater of Mariupol as a result of a bombardment by a Russian aircraft.”
The Kremlin has denied its forces struck the theatre, though this appeared to fly in the face of what was happening in the port city which has been largely destroyed by Russian shelling and air strikes.
The Mariupol City Council published a desperate letter pleading for help stressing there were “more and more deaths from starvation”.
There were also reports of dozens of people being abducted by Russian soldiers as they advance into the city.
Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to still remain inside the port city on the Azov Sea in southern Ukraine which has been cut off from running water and electricity for weeks, with little food and medicine supplies.
One woman waiting in line to receive food supplies in the city said her diabetic husband had slipped into a coma and died before the aid arrived.
He was buried in a flowerbed.
“We are planning on leaving but it’s very difficult at the moment,” the woman, who gave her name as Alexandra, said. “I can’t leave my husband in a flowerbed … And then we have nowhere to go.”
Ukraine’s defence chiefs said on Thursday that Russia was trying to resume offensives to capture Mariupol as well as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv.
Mr Putin’s troops are believed to have been slowly seizing more of Mariupol in fierce fighting, with thousands of civilians feared to have died in the Russian onslaught.
It has seen a theatre, thought to have been housing more than 1,000 civilians, including children, hit, as well as a school where some 400 people were reported to be sheltering, and a maternity hospital.
Tens of thousands of people have managed to flee the city despite the Kremlin’s repeated refusal to set up and protect humanitarian corridors to allow a greater evacuation.
The city council is reported to have been forced to move outside of Mariupol as the Russian troops advance.