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On March 16, the Donetsk Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol was rocked by an explosion. The attack was immediately attributed to a Russian air strike.
However the circumstance surrounding this horrifying attack suggest there’s much more to the this story than is being reported. On March 11, the “AZOV Media” YouTube account posted a video showing civilians crowded in the Mariupol theatre with Azov soldiers guarding doorways.
On March 12, a Telegram post warned that the Ukrainian forces were planning to launch a provocation using the women and children assembled in the Mariupol theatre, allegedly to generate global outrage and increase pressure for a No Fly Zone.
In the weeks leading up to the attack, civilians attempting to flee Mariupol report being told by Ukrainian forces that evacuating the city was forbidden, and that they were shot at when they attempted to do so.
Civilians who escaped from Mariupol tell about the horrors they had to endure during the city battles.
According to them, there are many dead civilians in the city who have no one to bury them. They say that radicals from the Nazi-led Ukrainian Azov Regiment repeatedly disrupted evacuations of civilians, shooting those who tried to leave the city.
“Azov those bitches, people tried to evacuate… They executed the people… the monsters… scum! They executed the convoys of civilians who tried to evacuate to Volodarsk! They shot them all up, entire buses”-Civilian who escaped from Mariupol
Days after the attack, an evacuee of Mariupol claimed that it was in fact the retreating Azov Battalion that destroyed the drama theatre.
Following the attack, a Russian Major-General stated “it was known from the refugees who got out of Mariupol that […] Azov Battalion might be holding civilians hostage in the theater building” and did not consider the building a target for airstrikes for that reason. As of March 18, over 130 people have reportedly been rescued from the partially collapsed theatre. No deaths have yet been reported.
Questions to consider about Mariupol theatre bombing:
- What does Russia have to gain by bombing a theatre they allegedly knew was full of civilians?
- Conversely, what would Azov stand to gain by having this atrocity blamed on Russia?