Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk regional administration which includes Mariupol, said Russian forces are trying to “physically destroy Mariupol and the people of Mariupol, which have been a symbol of our resistance” after a theater sustained heavy damage in an apparent bombing.
Kyrylenko said they launched an air strike on the “Drama Theater” and “the Neptune” swimming pool.
“According to preliminary data, several hundred Mariupol residents were hiding in the Drama Theater. Their fate is unknown, as the entrance to the bomb shelter is blocked by rubble,” he said.
“The Russians are already lying, [saying] that the headquarters of the Azov Regiment was there. But they themselves are well aware that there were only civilians,” he continued on Facebook.
The Azov Battalion is an ultra-nationalist militia that has since been integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces.
“Now there are pregnant women and women with children under the rubble. This is pure terrorism!” he wrote.
It is currently impossible to determine the number of casualties of these shellings and the extent of the destruction as well.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague has ordered Moscow to immediately stop its invasion of Ukraine, saying there is no evidence to support its justification of the war.
During a hearing Wednesday, the court ruled there was no evidence to support Russian claims that Ukraine was committing genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, whereby Moscow has justified its invasion of Ukraine.
“The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations commenced on 24 February, 2022, that have as their stated purpose and objective the prevention and punishment of a claimed genocide in the Luhansk and Donetskoblasts of Ukraine,” it said.
The Court also called for other forces supported or controlled by Moscow to cease their military operations, and for Russia to refrain from aggravating or extending the dispute.
Ukraine filed a dispute on Feb. 26 against Russia on the basis of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It asked the ICJ to deliberate on Russian claims that Ukraine was committing genocide in the Donbas.
The hearing took place in the Peace Palace in The Hague, where presiding Judge Joan E. Donoghue read out the Court’s order. The preliminary decision was confirmed by a 13-2 vote. A Russian and a Chinese judge were the two to vote against the decision.
“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is taking place in Ukraine,” Donoghue said. “The court is profoundly concerned about the use of force by the Russian Federation in Ukraine which raises very serious issues of international law.”
ICJ rulings are considered binding, though the court lacks an enforcement mechanism.
Russia boycotted a previous ICJ hearing on March 7.
The World Health Organization slammed the unprecedented numbers of attacks on global health care systems Wednesday.
“This issue is more important than bricks and mortar. This isn’t just about the destruction of buildings,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said while discussing Ukraine.
“This is about the destruction of hope. This is about taking away the very thing that gives people the reason to live. The fact that their families can be taken care of, that they can be cured if they’re sick, that they can be treated if they’re injured. This is the most basic of human rights, and it has been directly denied to people and we are then in a position where we can’t send assistance to those people, because the very act of attacking those facilities or not taking care to avoid those facilities means we can’t send the appropriate help when it’s needed,” he said.
Ryan said that attacks on health care, encompassing workers and facilities, means health systems are “becoming a target.”
“We’re only a very short part into this year, we have never seen, globally, never seen this rate of attacks on health care,” Ryan said. “Health is becoming a target in these situations; it’s becoming part of the strategy and tactics of war. It is entirely, entirely unacceptable. It is against international humanitarian law.”
Of the 89 attacks on health systems around the world this year so far, 43 have been in Ukraine, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“More than 300 health facilities are along conflict lines or in areas that Russia now controls. And a further 600 facilities are within 10 kilometers of the conflict line,” Tedros said, adding, “WHO condemns all attacks on health care wherever they occur.”
The Ukrainian health system is “teetering on the brink,” warned Ryan.
WHO is working with its partners to get emergency medical teams on the ground in Ukraine, but officials said they are concerned the emergency medical teams will get attacked or bombed.
“How can you do that in all conscience if the very infrastructure that those people will go into support is being under direct attack?” Ryan said.
The Mariupol City Council has posted an image of the Ukrainian city’s theater — where hundreds of people are said to have taken shelter — after it sustained heavy damage in a bombing Wednesday.
CNN has geolocated the image and confirmed it is of the theater. Videos showed a fire raging in the theater’s ruins.
The city council said that Russian forces had “purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol. The plane dropped a bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding.”
The council added on its Telegram channel: “It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act, because the city continues to shell residential areas. It is known that after the bombing, the central part of the Drama Theater was destroyed, and the entrance to the bomb shelter in the building was destroyed.”
It said casualty numbers were still being confirmed.
“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. Women, children, and the elderly remain in the enemy’s sights. These are completely unarmed peaceful people,” it said.
“We will never forgive and never forget,” it added.
Separately, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to mayor of Mariupol, said the theater’s shelter was “the largest in number and size shelter in the city center.”
“According to preliminary data, more than a 1,000 people were hiding there. The number of dead and injured is unknown. The probability of getting there to dismantle the rubble is low due to constant shelling and bombing of the city,” he said.
The Ukrainians put together an extensive list of requested military and technological assistance they are still requesting to share with the US government on Wednesday, according to two sources familiar with the list.
The list is organized based on levels of necessity, ranging from urgent needs to low priority, the sources said.
Included in the top priority section are: anti-aircraft systems including the S300 and stinger rockets and launchers, anti-tank weapons, including American-made javelins, different kinds of artillery ammunition, planes, armored vehicles and helicopters, sources said.
The list also includes highly-advanced US drones — called switchblade systems — which can be flown remotely and blow up targets miles away. These weapons were added to the list after the Ukrainians consulted with congressional partners over the weekend on a draft of the list. The US would have to provide training for the Ukrainian troops if the US gives them those weapons, but the sources said that could be done remotely.
Beyond weaponry Ukraine’s asks also include: radar stations, automated control for anti-aircraft systems, radios, medical kits and body armor.
The key is that the Ukrainians need secure communications systems that the Russians cannot get into, the sources said. The US has previously provide Ukraine with that kind of communications technology and is poised to provide more of that support, the officials said.
President Biden announced $800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine during remarks from the White House on Wednesday. This brings the total to $1 billion in aid announced in just the last week.
“The world is united in our support for Ukraine and our determination to make (Russian President Vladimir) Putin pay a very heavy price,” Biden said as he made the announcement. “America is leading this effort, together with our allies and partners, providing an enormous level of security and humanitarian assistance that we’re adding to today and we’re going to continue to do more in the days and weeks ahead.”
The package of military assistance will include anti-tank missiles and more of the defensive weapons that the US has already been providing, including Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, officials familiar with the plans said. The assistance, however, will stop short of the no-fly zone or fighter jets that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said are necessary to sustain Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
“These are direct transfers of equipment from our Department of Defense to the Ukrainian military to help them as they fight against this invasion. I thank the Congress for appropriating these funds,” Biden said.
Biden went on to detail what is in the package and how it will be used.
“This new package, on its own, is going to provide unprecedented assistance to Ukraine. It includes; 800 anti-aircraft systems to make sure the Ukrainian military can continue to stop the plans and helicopters that have been attacking their people and to defend their Ukrainian airspace,” Biden continued.
“At the request of President Zelensky, we have identified and are helping Ukraine acquire additional longer-range anti-aircraft systems and ammunitions for those systems. The new assistance package also includes 9,000 anti-armor systems. These are portable… high accuracy shoulder-mounted missiles that Ukrainian forces have been using with great effect to destroy invading tanks and armored vehicles. It will include 7,000 small arms, machine guns, shot guns, grenade launchers to equip the Ukrainians including the brave women and men defending their cities as civilians and they’re on the country side as well,” Biden said.
Biden added, that the aid will also include drones, “which demonstrates our commitment to sending our must cutting edge systems to Ukraine for its defense.”
Biden noted that security assistance will be in partnership with allies.
“And we’re not doing this alone. Our allies and partners have stepped up to provide significant shipments of security assistance and will continue to help facilitate these deliveries as well. The United States and our allies and partners are fully committed to surging weapons of assistance to the Ukrainians. More will be coming as we source additional stocks of equipment that we’re ready to transfer,” he said.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly and Paul LeBlanc contributed reporting to this post.
US President Joe Biden warned “this could be a long and difficult battle” after announcing an additional $800 million in security aid for Ukraine.
“The American people will be steadfast in our support [to] the people of Ukraine in the face of Putin’s immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations. We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught, and we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival,” he said in remarks from the White House.
“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead. We’re going to continue to mobilize humanitarian relief to support people within Ukraine and those forced to flee Ukraine,” Biden said.
He also pledged to keep up sanctions on Russia.
“We will support Ukraine’s economy with direct financial assistance. Together with our allies and partners, we will keep up the pressure in Putin’s crumbling economy, isolating him on the global stage. That’s our goal. Make Putin pay the price, weaken his position while strengthening the hand of the Ukrainians on the battlefield and at the negotiating table,” he said.
US President Joe Biden opened his remarks this afternoon by thanking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for his “passionate message” to Congress earlier today.
“I listened to it in the private residence. He was convincing and it was a significant speech. He speaks for a people who have shown remarkable courage and strength in the face of brutal aggression. Courage and strength that’s inspired not only Ukrainians but the entire world,” Biden said in remarks from the White House.
Biden went on to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “inflicting appalling, appalling devastation on Ukraine” with the bombing of apartment buildings, maternity wards, and hospitals.
Biden’s remarks are ongoing.
US President Joe Biden is speaking at the White House and is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, a White House official told CNN, bringing the total to $1 billion announced in just the last week.
Biden’s remarks come shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Congress for help directly Wednesday, telling US lawmakers “we need you right now” as he invoked tragedies in American history like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attack.
Zelensky addressed Biden directly in the historic speech, “You are the leader of your grand nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” he said at the conclusion of his remarks, which were met with a standing ovation from lawmakers.
The package of military assistance Biden is expected to announce will include anti-tank missiles and more of the defensive weapons that the US has already been providing, including Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, officials familiar with the plans said.
The assistance, however, will stop short of the no-fly zone or fighter jets that Zelensky has said are necessary to sustain Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
The $800 million in security assistance comes from the massive spending bill the President signed into law on Tuesday, which includes $13.6 billion total in new aid to Ukraine.
CNN’s Clare Foran contributed reporting to this post.
Read more about Biden’s expected announcement here.