The March 16 bombing of the Mariupol theater in Ukraine, where many civilians had fled, was “clearly a Russian war crime,” confirmed an Amnesty International report on Thursday, but the death toll was far fewer than feared .
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“So far we have talked about an alleged war crime. Now we can unequivocally say that it was one committed by the Russian armed forces,” Oksana Pokaltchouk, the director of AI in Ukraine, told AFP during an interview in Paris.
Two explosions destroyed much of the theater, caused by “something very large: two 500-kilogram bombs” from an “air strike,” she continued, and the nature of the damage crippled those of the NGO, according to experts consulted by the NGO Moscow hypothesized an explosion inside the compound provoked by Ukrainian forces.
But at the time, the Mariupol skies were “under Russian control” and there were “no Ukrainian planes,” Ms Pokaltchouk explained.
Satellite images taken before and after the attack showed that there was “no Ukrainian military presence around the theater,” she said. “When there were so many military targets, (the Russians) chose a civilian one,” she regretted.
Amnesty has denounced a “premeditated” attack on a website welcoming hundreds of innocent people, preceded by the word “child” written in large white letters, making it “clearly a war crime”.
Only good news from the report, the number of people killed would be much less than estimated when the Mariupol Municipality reported about 300 dead.
“Amnesty International believes that at least a dozen people died in the attack, and probably many more, and that many others were seriously injured,” we can read in this report, which is made up of testimonies from 50 witnesses and numerous experts was created.
“This estimate is lower than previous counts,” the NGO admits. It is based on the fact that many refugees from the theater managed to escape from Mariupol “in the two days before the attack” and that “most of those who stayed there were in basements and other zones that were before were protected from the explosion,” she explains.
“It’s good news that fewer people have been killed. But that doesn’t change anything,” emphasizes Oksana Pokaltchouk. And to insist, regardless of the number of victims, the attack on the Mariupol Theater is “clearly a war crime.”