The theater was like an altar, says Grigory Golovnyov. That is why, while walking down the street towards the building, this 50-year-old businessman could not believe it when he saw that the roof collapsed due to a big explosion, smoke, debris. It was March 16, and Russian forces had just bombed the Donetsk Regional Drama Theater in the then-besieged city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
Golovnyov lived a few hundred meters from the theater and said he visited him almost every day to get out of the city to learn about the humanitarian corridors. “We stayed in the entrance hall. “I went with my wife and our daughter and some of our neighbors were there … it was a meeting place and a place of communication,” the man said in a statement compiled by Amnesty International (AI) in a report released Thursday.
After a month-long investigation in which he collected data and interviewed many survivors and witnesses, the organization recorded how the Russian military “deliberately attacked” the building, even though they knew hundreds of civilians were fleeing there. Which condemns the attack on AI, a “clear war crime”. The organization believes that Vladimir Putin’s forces killed at least a dozen people and probably many more.
Amnesty International claims that the building, located in Spain, where neighbors spelled out the words “Children” in Russian – in giant letters, was clearly identified as a civilian target, probably more so than elsewhere in Mariupol. As a result of the investigation, he concludes that this was not a valid military target. “There was no significant military presence in or near the theater during the attack or in the days before it.” According to the specialized agency, none of the 28 survivors interviewed or any of the witnesses provided us with information that the Ukrainian Armed Forces used the theater as a base for operations, a weapons depot or a place of attack.
By March 16, the theater had become a haven for civilians fleeing violence in other parts of the city, most of them children, women and the elderly. It was a food and water distribution center that provided basic information about the expected corridors and was also an evacuation meeting place, the NGO said in a report, noting that over time the population had grown significantly due to the fighting. Approached and from the beginning of the war until the day of the attack more than 1000 people lived there.
One of them was Natalia Honcharova, a former speech teacher at the theater, who fled to the theater with her family in the early days of the war because living in her apartment was no longer safe. “In the beginning, they were mostly companions [y sus familias]But more and more people were coming every day. As the number of people sheltered in the theater increased, it was difficult to find a safe place for everyone. Some parts of the building that were considered the safest were so crowded that it was difficult to accommodate more people. The stage and concert hall were considered the most vulnerable to attack due to the density of the ceiling and the presence of a huge chandelier. Several respondents told AI that the volunteers told them they would not stay there, but some had no choice.
According to AI, the number of people sheltered in the theater decreased in the two days before the attack, when the first unofficial convoy of vehicles managed to leave the city. Many of these cars left the theater. In the days before the bombing, the Mariupol area, which was controlled by Ukrainian forces, was shrinking and people felt more urgent to leave. The report states that at least two airstrikes were carried out in the vicinity of the theater in those days and many were afraid to stay there.
500 kg bomb
The attack took place on March 16, at 10:00 p.m. According to the report, hundreds of civilians were still present in and around the theater at that time.
The organization instructed the expert to create a mathematical model of the explosion in order to determine the net explosive mass that would be needed to challenge the level of destruction seen in the theater. Based on data from the Moscow arsenal, AI believes the weapon was probably two 500-kilogram bombs – although it is possible that it was just one bomb, or one or two cruise missiles. In addition, the organization believes that it is likely that the attack was carried out by multirole fighter jets – such as the Su-25, Su-30 or Su-34 – based at airfields near Russia, which are often seen operating. In the south of Ukraine.
“We heard the sound of planes … I saw two rockets fired from the plane at the theater,” said Vitaly Kontarov, a 48-year-old truck driver who was taking water about a kilometer from the theater during the attack. Then he saw smoke coming out of the building. Explosives exploded in the ceiling of the eastern part of the theater and exploded in the performance space, presumably at the stage level, based on analysis of satellite images, photos and video. When the ammunition exploded, it destroyed the surrounding inner walls, then broke through the outer load-bearing walls, creating two major fields of debris on the north-east and south-west sides of the building. The roof collapsed.
“Everything changed in one second. Everything was blown up. (…) People started shouting. “It was full of dust,” said a young woman who was hiding in the basement with a friend and mother when the bombs fell. “I saw people bloody. We took the papers and left. (…) Some were not lucky. ”
Respondents provided the names of three people they thought were dead, as well as the full names of four of those killed: Mikhail Hrebenstsky, Luba Sviridova, Elena Kuznetsova and Igor Chistyakov. Jehven Hrebenstტსski found the body of his father, Mikhail, in a concert hall after recognizing his hand. He said many injured and police were trying to pull people out of the rubble. Dimitro Simonenko was with Luba Sviridova until her death from injuries.
Several survivors and other witnesses said they saw bodies that could not be identified. The NGO says many deaths are likely to be reported. Many others said they saw bloody bodies and dismembered parts in the ruins of the demolished building.
Amnesty International estimates that at least a dozen people were killed in the attack, but said there were probably many more and many more were seriously injured. This is a lower estimate than other data, and the NGO explains this by the fact that a large number of people left the theater a few days before the attack and that most of the survivors were in the basement in other places. Direct impact of the explosion.
In the aftermath of the bombing, Mariupol City Council said about 300 people had been killed. Further investigation by the Associated Press Concluded that up to 600 may have been killed. It is difficult to collect the number of victims.
The AI team explored several alternative theories as to who was responsible for the attack and what weapons might have been used. “Based on the credible data available, the investigation has finally concluded that the targeted airstrike was the most convincing explanation for the civilian target,” the NGO said. AI explains the nature of the attack – the location of the attack inside the building, as well as the allegedly used weapons – and “the proximity of any potentially legitimate military targets clearly indicates that the theater was the intended target.”
The organization urgently calls for a comprehensive investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. “After months of rigorous investigation, we have concluded that the attack was a clear war crime committed by Russian forces,” said Agnes Kalamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general. “The International Criminal Court and all other instances that have jurisdiction over the crimes committed during this conflict should investigate this attack as a war crime. “All those responsible must be held accountable for so many deaths and destruction.”
Source: El Diario