Russia is accused of covering up the death toll at the destroyed Mariupol Theater

A Ukrainian official believes the public will never know how many people died in an explosion in his city because Russian troops dismantled the rubble and removed the bodies of the victims.

On Friday, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, posted on social media that Russian troops had removed the bodies of those killed in the March bombing of the city’s theater. However, he stated that the exact number of those who died in the bombing will remain unknown.

“Now we will never know how many civilians from Mariupol were actually killed by a Russian bomb in the Drama Theater. The victims were buried under an unnamed number in a mass grave in Mangush,” Andriushchenko wrote, according to an English translation of the post.

On March 16, Russians bombed the theater, where reports said up to 1,200 people were using the building as a refuge from the Russian invasion. After the bombing, the mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boychenko, spoke of a “genocide” against the Ukrainians.

Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol upset with Russians
An aide to the mayor of Mariupol in Ukraine has suggested the Russians may have covered up how many people were killed in the bombing of a local theater. Pictured above are Russian relief workers at the destroyed Mariupol Drama Theater on May 10.
STRINGER/Getty Images

Initially, there were indications that most of the local people had survived the bombing. Former spokeswoman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Iuliia Mendel, posted on Twitter after the attack that the majority of the people hiding in the theater “remained alive”.

Illia Ponomarenko, reporter at the Kyiv Independent, posted on social media on March 17 that it was a “miracle” that those “who were hiding in a basement of the Mariupol Drama Theater survived the air raid”.

In early May, however, the Associated Press reported that the bombing of the Mariupol Theater was the deadliest attack on civilians since the Russian invasion began in late February. Evidence suggests as many as 600 people may have died in the attack, a number more than double what was originally reported, the AP said.

On May 9, Russian forces reportedly marched through the city as part of Victory Day celebrations, recognizing the defeat of Nazi Germany at the hands of the Soviet Union in World War II.

“The occupiers celebrate Victory Day on the bones of Mariupol. Hundreds of citizens killed by the Russian army continue to be taken to the mass grave near the village of Vynohradne,” the Mariupol City Council wrote in a statement on Telegram on the occasion.

After the theater in Mariupol was destroyed, Italy offered to help. Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, announced that his country’s cabinet had signed a proposal to help Ukraine rebuild the facility.

news week contacted the offices of the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministries for comment.

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