Responding to claims by Ukraine that an airstrike destroyed a theatre in Mariupol and killed civilians sheltering there, the Russian Defence Ministry said there had been no such strikes against ground targets in that city, and accused the neo-Nazi “Azov” battalion of killing its hostages.
The Russian military was aware of reports that “Azov” militants had kept civilians inside the theatre as human shields, and did not consider the building a target for airstrikes for that reason, Ministry representative Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
“Previously, it was known from the refugees who got out of Mariupol that the Nazis of the Azov Battalion could hold civilians hostage in the theatre building, using the upper floors as firing points,” RT News quoted Konashenkov as saying.
Taking into account the potential danger to civilians, and “the provocation already carried out by the nationalists on March 9 with hospital No. 3 in Mariupol, the theater building in the city center was never considered a target for destruction”, he added.
According to Konashenkov, the “available reliable information” indicates that Azov militants committed “a new bloody provocation by blowing up the theatre building they had mined”.