Mariupol theatre death toll doubles to 600

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An investigation involving a 3D model of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre has now uncovered the true extent of the barbaric attack on March 16. And it is feared many bodies were vaporised by the force of the explosion. The theatre served as the southern port city’s main bomb shelter, with people crammed into the auditorium, hallways, dressing rooms and backstage offices.

At least 100 hiding in a field kitchen in the grounds were killed and many survivors feared the death toll could be even higher.

They have estimated around 1,000 were inside and only 200 managed to escape.

Oksana Syomina, who escaped with her husband, said: “All the people are still under the rubble because the rubble is still there – no one dug them up.

This is one big mass grave.” Maria Kutnyakova said Russia was trying to cover up the true extent of the war crime by hiding bodies.

She said: “They came not to capture the city – they came to destroy it.”

Experts say the scope of the destruction points to a 1,100lb bomb dropped from a Russian warplane.

Meanwhile, Russian forces backed by tanks again began storming Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks yesterday as Ukrainian marines and the 200 civilians inside faced a bloody endgame.

The United Nations and the Red Cross said at least 30 children were still trapped beneath the plant as gun battles and shelling broke out.

One evacuee, Elina Tsybulchenko, 54, who was among 156 people rescued from the plant on Monday, arrived in Zaporizhzhia, a Ukrainian-controlled city 140 miles away.

She said she went to sleep every night afraid she would not wake up. She added: “You can’t imagine how scary it is when you sit in the bomb shelter, in a damp and wet basement, and it is bouncing and shaking.”

Others, many in tears, made their way into a tent offering food and connections to the outside world.

Before communications at the Azovstal plant were lost, Sviatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said on messaging app Telegram: “We’ll do everything that’s possible to repel the assault.

“But we’re calling for urgent measures to evacuate the civilians that remain and to bring them out safely.”

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko said there were still more than 200 civilians sheltering beneath the plant.

Overall, around 100,000 civilians are still in Mariupol, which has now been under siege for two months.

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