Russia bombed a Mariupol theater with 'Children' sign outside — but shelter survived
Updated March 17, 2022 at 1:41 PM ET
A glimmer of good news has emerged in Mariupol, where survivors are being pulled out of a theater that was being used as a shelter — and which was hit by a Russian airstrike on Wednesday.
A bomb shelter beneath the large theater survived intact, according to Ukrainian member of parliament Sergiy Taruta. After hours of uncertainty in which rescue crews worked to remove rubble and debris, he said in a social media post, people were finally being brought safely out of the shelter.
"People come out alive!" Taruta wrote, according to a translation by former Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba. Taruta is a former governor of Donetsk, the region that includes Mariupol.
The city council of Mariupol says that despite ongoing shelling, it's still trying to rescue people from the ruins of the city's Drama Theater, NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.
Satellite imagery from March 14 shows that the word "Children" (Дети) had been written in Russian on the ground in front of and behind the red-roofed theater, according to Maxar Technologies. That same message is frequently seen on cars and elsewhere during the war, as civilians hope Russian forces will avoid firing on them.
Mariupol's Drama Theater is believed to have been sheltering hundreds of people when it was devastated by the Russian attack. It's not yet known how many of them survived, or what condition they're in.
Ukrainian officials shared footage of the devastated theater on Thursday, with the Mariupol City Council saying the central part of the large building was destroyed.
People in Mariupol have been living under siege since Russian forces isolated it and began shelling the port city.
The city council said more than 350,000 Mariupol residents continue to hide in shelters and basements. The city has been encircled by Russian troops for 16 days — and fighting is raging on its outskirts.
The city council says that, on average, 50 to 100 bombs have been dropped on the city per day, Frayer reports.
Residents have been desperate to flee, as attacks disrupted critical services and infrastructure. Several attempts to establish humanitarian corridors have been marred by continued fire, but some people have managed to flee. In the past two days, the city's mayor said via Telegram, 6,500 private cars were able to leave the city.
Russia's military is razing Mariupol to the ground, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday.
"They just destroy everything there. Everything and everyone who is there," Zelenskyy said in a speech to German lawmakers. "Hundreds of thousands of people are under shelling around the clock. No food, 24 hours a day without water, no electricity, 24 hours a day without communication. For weeks."
This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.