Russian Forces Bombed an Art School in Ukraine, Where Hundreds of Civilians Had Taken Shelter

It’s unclear if any of the 400 people hiding out at the G12 art school in Mariupol, including women, children and the elderly, have survived.

Destroyed buildings are seen as civilians trapped in Mariupol city under Russian attacks, are evacuated in groups under the control of pro-Russian separatists, through other cities, in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18, 2022. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Russian forces have reportedly bombed an art school in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where hundreds of civilians had taken shelter. 

The news was reported by the Mariupol City Council in a March 20 post on the instant messaging service Telegram. “Yesterday,” the post said, “the Russian occupiers dropped bombs on the G12 art school in the Left Bank district of Mariupol, where about 400 Mariupol residents were hiding.”

Among those seeking refuge at the school were “women, children and the elderly,” the city council explained. “It is known that the building was destroyed, and peaceful people are still under the rubble.” It’s unclear if any of the civilians have survived.

Petro Andrushenko, an advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote on his own Telegram channel that “so far, there is no exact operational data on how many people were hiding in the shelter or the number of casualties.” Andrushenko said that “the situation is difficult and there is nowhere to get the data from.” 

The G12 school is the second cultural institution in the besieged city to be attacked in a matter of days. On March 16, Russia shelled Mariupol’s Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama, where as many as 1,300 Ukrainians had been hiding in basement shelters. In satellite images captured before the bombing, the Russian word for “children” could be seen scrawled in chalk on either side of the theater—a plea from those inside that attackers avoid the building. 

As of Friday, just 130 people had been rescued from the site of the theater, said Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson, in an online video.

Destroyed buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Destroyed buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Mariupol, a city of roughly 430,000 people located on the Sea of Azov, has been among the hardest-hit cities since the start of the war on February 24. On March 12, Russia bombed a mosque where 80 people were sheltering. Days later, the country attacked a maternity ward, killing a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. 

​​“It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of cruelty and cynicism with which the Russian occupiers are destroying the civilian population of the Ukrainian city by the sea,” the Mariupol City Council wrote in another Telegram post. “Women, children, and the elderly remain in the enemy’s crosshairs. These are completely unarmed peaceful people. It is obvious that the only goal of the Russian army is the genocide of the Ukrainian people.”

In a video address this weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russia’s attacks on Mariupol a “war crime.” 

“To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” Zelenskyy said.

According to the Russian state media outlet, RIA Novosti, the Russian Ministry of Defense called on Ukraine to lay down its arms and surrender Mariupol by 5 am Moscow Standard Time Monday morning (10 pm EDT on Sunday). Ukrainian officials refused to comply. 

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the local news outlet Ukrainian Pravda. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.”

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