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Ukraine war: Russian ambassador to UN denies Putin’s forces bombed Mariupol theatre as he hits out at ‘so many fakes’ | World News

The Kremlin’s ambassador to the United Nations has told Sky News that a theatre, reportedly full of hundreds of civilians, which was ripped apart in the besieged city of Mariupol was not bombed by Russia.

Some survivors have apparently been pulled from the rubble by rescue teams following Wednesday’s airstrike which Ukrainian officials said was carried out by President Putin’s forces.

Up to 1,000 men, women and children were thought to have been sheltering in the theatre’s basement for safety after their homes were destroyed during the invasion.

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A satellite image shows the word ‘children’ written in Russian before the attack. Pic: Maxar

And the word “children” had reportedly been displayed in large letters at the site, prior to the attack, warning warplanes to those inside.

But the Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, denied his country played any part in the incident and said there was “an information war taking place on a larger scale than the battlefield”.

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Airstrike targets Mariupol theatre

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He told Sky’s US correspondent Martha Kelner: “The theatre in Mariupol was not bombed by Russia.”

Mr Nebenzya added: “I have seen so many fakes. We have this information war which is raging on a much greater scale than on the battlefield, and I will not be surprised at anything because who wins the information war – the one who wins the war.”

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UKRAINE MAPS Day22 170322

Meanwhile in a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading economies have accused President Putin of conducting an “unprovoked and shameful war”.

And they called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to stop its attack and withdraw its forces.

Speaking at the UN Security Council, Mr Nebenzya claimed people who had left Mariupol said on 13 March that the Azov Battalion, a far-right Ukrainian militia, had been holding a “huge number of people” in the building and was “preparing a bloody provocation”.

Mariupol Theatre 
no Credit needed
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Up to 1,000 civilians were believed to have been sheltering in the basement of the theatre before the attack
Mariupol Theatre 
no Credit needed

Theatre ‘never a target’, says ambassador

In his speech in New York, he acknowledged the “children” word outside the theatre, said Russian armed forces were “informed of the situation” and the building “was never considered as a target for a strike”.

The shelter is believed to have stood firm in the bombing, and rescuers have been clearing rubble blocking the entrance to the basement.

Mariupol has suffered the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the three-week war, with hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in basements with no food, water or power.

Mr Nebenzya said the southeastern city had previously had an “infamous jail and torture centre” at the airport which he compared to “neo-Nazism”.

And he claimed “Ukrainian radicals” were “clinging to the city” and “covering up maybe proof of their crimes… and they understand they will have to be held accountable”.

“That’s why they stand ready to drag into the grave almost the entire population of Mariupol,” he said.

The Great Debate airs on Sky News at 9pm on Monday

Mr Nebenzya alleged the authorities in Mariupol “use people as human shields, they do not allow them to evacuate and they place right next to residential buildings heavy weaponry in violation of humanitarian law”.

Russia accused of ‘lying and spreading disinformation’

But the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has accused Russia of using the Security Council for “lying and spreading disinformation”.

People walk outside a block of flats, which was heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
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People walk outside a block of flats, which was heavily damaged in Mariupol
Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict sit in a damaged car as they wait in a line to leave the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
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Evacuees sit in a car as they wait in a line to leave Mariupol

The Kremlin has insisted Russia does not target civilians in what President Putin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said Kyiv was trying to frame Russia for the Mariupol incident.

“The Kyiv regime immediately tried to blame the Russian military, who, in its view, allegedly dropped a bomb from the air on the theatre,” she said.

“Of course, this is a lie. It is well known to everyone that the Russian armed forces do not bomb cities. No matter how many videos are doctored by NATO structures and how many video clips and photo fakes are pumped out, the truth will come out.”

Read more: What are the chances of a peace deal with Russia to end the conflict?

In the northern city of Chernihiv, at least 53 people had been taken to morgues over the last 24 hours, after being killed amid heavy Russian air attacks and ground fire, local governor Viacheslav Chaus told Ukrainian TV.

Ukraine’s emergency services said a mother, a father and three of their children, including three-year-old twins, were killed when a Chernihiv hostel was shelled.

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Will Russia use chemical weapons?

And at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community centre in Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, according to mayor Veniamin Sitov.

Read more: What chemical and biological weapons could Russia have – and what has it used before?

In the capital city Kyiv, where residents have been huddling in homes and shelters, a fire broke out in an apartment building hit by remnants of a downed Russian rocket, killing one person, according to authorities.

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