AT least 300 people are said to have died in the Mariupol theatre bombing after Vladimir Putin's savage troops blitzed women and kids cowering for safety.
Up to 1,200 terrified people were sheltering in the drama theatre in the southern port city in Ukraine when it was attacked by the Russians earlier this month – despite the word "children" being written outside the building.
The historic building was being used as a safe haven from Russia's relentless shelling of the city, with meals being provided and people sleeping there overnight.
After 10 desperate days of rescuing survivors from the rubble, Mariupol City Council has now confirmed at least 300 people are thought to have died in the horror bombing.
A post on the city council's Telegram channel said: "From eyewitnesses, information appears to show that about 300 people died in the Mariupol drama theatre as a result of a bombardment by a Russian aircraft.
"There is no more drama. In its place, a new point of pain for Mariupol residents has appeared – ruins that became the last refuge for hundreds of innocent people."
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It's not clear whether rescuers have finished excavating the site.
Satellite images showed the word "children" written in large white letters in Russian outside the front and back of the building, the Maxar space technology company said.
The pilot of the Russian aircraft who ignored the warning signs was branded a monster by Ukraine.
Local MP Sergiy Taruta said the theatre had become a shelter “in which the residents of the blockaded Mariupol sought respite from the continuous shelling”.
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Pictures showed a pile of rubble with twisted metal and smoke rising from the ruins while videos showed blood soaked victims being rushed to hospital – and numerous bodies in the basement of the theatre.
Another video showed smouldering vehicles and debris strewn across what appeared to be the theatre's car park.
Mariupol is being flattened by a squadron of 25 Russian bombers flying sorties over the city every day – with 90 per cent of all buildings damaged or destroyed.
Around 14,000 elite Russian troops surround the city, with many of the 400,000 residents – trapped without power and running water – drinking from puddles to survive.
Bodies litter the streets, while others have been buried in mass graves because the ceaseless bombardment makes it impossible to hold funerals.
Russian troops also reduced a school to rubble in the city, where around 400 civilians were sheltering when the building was hit by thermobaric TOS-1A rockets, which can melt human organs.
Another airstrike hit a maternity hospital in the city.
It comes as…
- Ukrainian troops pushed Russian forces out of Kyiv as the resistance crushes Putin's shambolic invasion
- Russian General dubbed ‘butcher of Mariupol’ who bombed maternity ward and ‘gassed kids’ in Syria revealed
- A terrified Russian soldier told his gran he wants to “get the f*** out” of Ukraine and expected the war to be over in two weeks
- Russia has threatened to spark World War Three by nuking the West if NATO peacekeepers step just one foot into war ravaged Ukraine
- The invaders have lost up to 40,000 troops in Ukraine along with at least 17 commanders
- Fears are growing of more brutal Russian tactics as Putin was accused of using phosphorous bombs
- Russian landing ship Orsk was blown up as it was anchored in the occupied port of Berdyansk
- Apocalyptic footage showed the devastation of Mariupol as the vicious bombardment of the city continues
- Britain is now sending another 6,000 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to help the fight against Russia
Ukraine hopes to open a safe corridor to evacuate civilians from Mariupol on Friday in private vehicles, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Elsewhere, in the eastern city of Kharkiv, about half the population has fled – and food and other essentials are dwindling for those who stay behind.
Kharkiv has been under siege by Russian forces since the start of the invasion, with relentless shelling forcing people to sleep in metro stations and basements.
And on the outskirts of the city of Dnipro, rescuers were searching for survivors among the debris on Friday after two Russian missiles hit a Ukrainian military unit – causing "serious destruction".
In the capital of Kyiv, ashes of the dead are piling up at the main crematorium because so many relatives have fled the city, leaving urns unclaimed.
Meanwhile, Russia said it has wiped out the largest remaining military fuel storage site in Ukraine – hitting it with the Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles.
"On the evening of March 24, Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles attacked a fuel base in the village of Kalynivka near Kyiv," the Russian defence ministry said.
It comes as Ukrainian troops pushed Russian forces out of Kyiv in a sign the fierce resistance is crushing Putin's shambolic invasion.
Ukraine is close to securing a major victory after managing to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 21 miles east of the capital.
Putin’s troops have been hit by plummeting morale after the quick victory promised by the tyrant has turned into a bloodbath in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
British defence officials said there was now a "realistic possibility" that Ukrainian forces would also encircle the towns of Bucha and Irpin – which have been partially occupied by Russian forces.
Ukraine is littered with the burnt out wrecks of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles, charred remains of downed aircraft, and the dead bodies of soldiers – many of who were teenage conscripts.
As the fighting takes its toll on Russian troops, stories are beginning to emerge of anger and plummeting morale.
Russia accidentally revealed it has lost 10,000 troops, when the figure was disclosed by a pro-Kremlin newspaper.
But NATO has said that figure could be as high as 15,000 with the total losses including wounded, captured or missing up to 40,000.
If the estimate is correct, then Russian losses in just under a month in Ukraine are now the same as they suffered during their ten year war in Afghanistan, which ended in 1989.
President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his country to keep up its military defence and not stop "even for a minute".
He used his nightly video address to rally Ukrainians to "move toward peace, move forward".
He said: "With every day of our defence, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much.
"We can't stop even for a minute, for every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live."
Zelensky said there is a "real" threat Moscow will use chemical weapons in Ukraine – accusing Russia of having already used phosphorus bombs against civilians.
The governor of the Lugansk region said phosphorus bombs were used in one village in eastern Ukraine, killing at least four people, including two children.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance is now deploying extra chemical and biological and nuclear defences to reinforce its battle groups in eastern Europe.
It comes as Joe Biden said Putin has failed to divide the West with his war on Ukraine.
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After a Nato summit in Brussels, the US president said: "Nato has never, never been more united than it is today.
"Putin is getting exactly the opposite of what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine."
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