Mariupol theater attack ‘clear war crime,’ says Amnesty
London, Jun 30 (EFE).- A deadly Russian airstrike on the Mariupol theater in Ukraine was a “clear war crime,” according to an investigation by Amnesty International.
Amnesty’s report “‘Children’: The Attack on the Donetsk Regional Academic Drama Theatre in Mariupol,” released on Thursday, documents how Russian forces likely deliberately attacked the theater on Mar. 16 even though they knew hundreds of civilians were sheltering there.
The organization said “at least dozen people and likely many more” were killed in the attack, however an Associated Press investigation put the number at around 600, which it said was twice the city government’s initial estimate of 300.
The humanitarian organization’s crisis response team interviewed survivors and collected digital data, and concluded that the attack was almost certainly carried out by Russian warplanes that dropped two 500-kilogram bombs that landed close to each other and detonated simultaneously.
“After months of rigorous investigation, analysis of satellite imagery and interviews with dozens of witnesses, we concluded that the strike was a clear war crime committed by Russian forces,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
“Many people were injured and killed in this merciless attack. Their deaths were likely caused by Russian forces deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilians,” she said.
“The International Criminal Court, and all others with jurisdiction over crimes committed during this conflict, must investigate this attack as a war crime. All those responsible must be held accountable for causing such death and destruction.”
Amnesty said it commissioned a physicist to determine the net explosive weight of the blast that would be required to cause the level of destruction seen in the theater. The conclusion was that the bombs had a net explosive weight of 400-800 kg.
The Russian aircraft most likely to have carried out the attack were fighter jets such as the Su-25, Su-30 or Su-34, based at nearby Russian airfields and frequently seen operating in southern Ukraine.
Amnesty examined several alternative theories about who was responsible for the attack and what weapons might have been used.
“Based on the available credible evidence, the investigation ultimately found that a deliberate air strike targeted at a civilian object was the most plausible explanation,” it said.
In besieged Mariupol, in Donetsk region, the theater was a safety zone for civilians seeking refuge from the fighting.
The theater was also a distribution center for medicine, water and food, and a designated meeting point for people waiting to be evacuated.
The building was clearly recognizable as a civilian target, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the city, Amnesty said, and locals had written the Russian word for “children” on forecourts on either side of the building, which would have been clearly visible to pilots and also on satellite imagery. EFE