Russia Bombs Theater in Mariupol Where Hundreds of Civilians Sought Shelter, Ukraine Says

Hundreds are feared buried in rubble of Mariupol theater after Russia bombed it, Ukraine officials said.

Hundreds of civilians in Mariupol, the hardest-hit city in Ukraine, are feared buried by rubble after Russian forces bombed a theater being used to shelter refugees, officials said.

A Wednesday attack blasted the Drama Theater in the heart of the port town, where as many as 1,000 people had sought shelter from relentless Russian attacks, Ukrainian officials said. Putin's troops have encircled the city for days, creating a human rights catastrophe as women, children and the elderly struggle without food, water or power.

The Mariupol City Council described the attack as a “bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding."

“We don’t know if there are any survivors,” said one witness on social media. “The bomb shelter is also covered with debris, there are both adults and children there.”

Images and witness accounts posted to social media and the messaging app Telegram channel MariupolNow showed smoldering rubble where the theater once stood, and described chaos in the besieged city, where sniper attacks and bombings have terrified those left.

Also attacked Wednesday was a civilian caravan of cars trying to flee the killing, Ukrainian officials said.

American President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal," as invading troops escalated their attacks on Ukraine towns and cities, targeting homes, hospitals, and apartment complexes.

Biden made the remark while approving an additional $800 million in military aid for Ukraine, just hours after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy begged the U.S. Congress for greater help, saying, "We need you right now."

Meanwhile, Russia persisted in raining down fire over Ukraine.

"According to preliminary data, several hundred Mariupol residents were hiding in the Drama Theater. Their fate is unknown, as the entrance to the bomb shelter is blocked by rubble," said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of a regional administration that includes Mariupol.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Mariupol is the worst front of the invasion. Mass graves have been dug on the city's outskirts and bodies of men, women and children lie abandoned on the streets.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed the word "children" had been written outside the theater in large Russian script.

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