Russia is accused of bombing the Ukrainian art school that housed hundreds of people

Ukrainian officials on Sunday accused Russia of bombing an art school in the besieged city of Mariupol where hundreds had sought refuge, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow’s attack on the city “will go down in history” as a war crime.

“The terror that the occupiers inflicted on the peaceful city will be remembered for centuries to come,” said Zelenskyy in his daily speech marking the 25th day since Russia invaded Ukraine. “And the more Ukrainians tell the world about it, the more support we find. The more Russia uses terror against Ukraine, the worse the consequences will be for them.”

Mariupol, a port city of about 400,000 people on the Azov Sea in southeastern Ukraine, has become a vivid symbol of the devastation wrought by the war.

The capture of Mariupol would be a major step forward for Russian forces, which have met stiff resistance in efforts to capture Kyiv, the capital, and other key objectives. Mariupol could link Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine to its forces in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Moscow’s apparent hopes for a speedy war and Ukraine’s surrender have dwindled in the face of unexpectedly fierce opposition and, many say, miscalculations and missteps by Russian military planners.

Early on Sunday, the Mariupol City Council accused Russia of bombing Art School Number 12 in the city’s Left Bank district. At that time, according to the city council, around 400 people found refuge there, including women and children.

“It is known that the building has been demolished and there are still peaceful people under the rubble,” the city councilor said, without specifying the hour of the attack.

Ukrainian authorities did not provide immediate casualty figures or estimates of how many were trapped at the school after the strike.

There was no independent confirmation of the alleged Russian bombing of the school. Few journalists have been able to enter Mariupol, where fighting is raging between Russian forces and Ukrainian defenders.

Later on Sunday, four Russian Navy ships opened fire on Mariupol, according to Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, which is helping to defend the city.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said Russia had bombed a theater in Mariupol where more than 1,000 people were sheltering. About 130 people were rescued, but hundreds more are thought to have been trapped under the rubble, Ukrainian officials said.

A satellite image shows the Mariupol theater after reported air raids.

A satellite image shows the Donetsk Regional Theater in Mariupol after the area was hit by Russian airstrikes, Ukrainian officials said.

(Associated Press)

Four days later, there was no official word on the fate of the people who had taken refuge in the theater. Intense fighting in the city has hampered rescue efforts, officials said.

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba released a satellite photo of the ruins of the site of the Mariupol Regional Drama Theater in Donetsk. About two-thirds of the large modern building was destroyed, with only the west facade remaining.

The alleged attack on the school on Sunday came hours after the city council accused Russian forces of another infraction – kidnapping citizens in Mariupol and their “illegal” deportation to Russia. According to the city council, the abductees had their passports confiscated and “you are given a piece of paper that has no legal force and is not recognized throughout the civilized world”.

As with the school bombing, there was no independent confirmation of the kidnapping allegation in Mariupol.

Both warring factions have exchanged allegations of atrocities and spreading misinformation since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Russia has denied attacking civilians and has accused Ukraine of committing “genocide” against residents who are “blood relatives” to Russia — a claim disputed by Ukrainian officials.

Images from Mariupol have shown massive scenes of destruction – apartment buildings charred by shells, a burned-out shopping center, craters opened by bombs and artillery shells. Intense fighting was reported this weekend in Mariupol at the huge Azovstal Steelworks, one of the largest in Europe.

Despite the dangers, authorities said thousands of people were successfully evacuated from Mariupol. Ukraine and Russia have agreed on a series of “humanitarian corridors” allowing civilians to flee hard-hit areas near Kyiv, Mariupol and other combat zones.

As of Sunday, there was still no official statement on the victims of a reported Russian bombing raid on a military barracks in Mykolayiv, a major Black Sea port and shipbuilding center about 300 miles west of Mariupol. Rescuers used shovels and their bare hands this weekend to search for survivors in the rubble of the barracks after Friday’s rocket attack.

Various media organizations have reported dozens of casualties in what would make it one of the deadliest Russian airstrikes on a military target to date.

Peace negotiations to end the conflict are underway, but there was no word of new progress this weekend as the war dragged on for a fourth week amid a steady flow of refugees and a widening humanitarian crisis. The two sides had several rounds of talks, but the discussions collapsed amid disagreements over some key issues, including Russian demands for Ukraine’s demilitarization and various Ukrainian demands for security guarantees.

In a video address early Saturday, Zelenskyy reiterated his desire for face-to-face negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s time to meet, time to talk,” said Zelenskyy.

Kremlin officials have not responded to Zelenskyy’s requests for a summit with Putin.

According to the United Nations, the war has so far resulted in at least 847 civilian deaths. But the UN says the toll could be much higher as many areas remain inaccessible. More than 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the United Nations says.

On Saturday, Russia’s military announced it had deployed its Kinzhal, or Dagger, aircraft missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles — high-velocity weapons that travel at 10 times the speed of sound and can evade missile defense systems — for what is believed to be the first time since the invasion .

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said in a video published on state media RIA’s Telegram channel that the missile system was used on Friday to destroy a large underground warehouse with weapons and ammunition in the village of Delyatyn 380 miles west of Kyiv.

Putin has boasted about his military’s investment in hypersonic missiles. In December, he said Russia is a world leader in such weapons and will likely come out on top by further advancing its technology before the US catches up.

Jenny Jarvie, a Times contributor in Atlanta, contributed to this report. Russia is accused of bombing the Ukrainian art school that housed hundreds of people

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