Russian forces bomb art school where 400 people were taking shelter in Mariupol

20 March 2022, 07:19 | Updated: 20 March 2022, 19:29

An art school in Mariupol was hit in a Russian airstrike
An art school in Mariupol was hit in a Russian airstrike. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

Ukrainian officials have said Russian forces bombed an art school where 400 people were taking shelter yesterday.

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The building was targeted by Russian troops in the besieged city of Mariupol. Women, children and the elderly had been in the school, officials said.

The information has not yet been independently verified and there is no information on casualties yet.

Former chief of defence staff Lord Dannat told Swarbrick on Sunday on LBC today there were 'shades of Srebrenica' in Putin's siege of Mariupol.

"The port city of Mariupol is now about to fall. The better part of a month has gone and the Russians haven't made the progress they thought they were going to.

"They've now had to resort to this appalling tactic of a war of attrition. Circling towns and cities and shelling them, and creating a phenomenal number of civilian casualties.

"Hearing what was going on in Mariupol, I thought there were shades of Srebrenica in 1995. I think Mariupol is going to come into the same category."

In 1995 during the Bosnian War more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Ratko Mladic, nicknamed the ‘Butcher of Bosnia.’

In 2017, Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, more than 20 years after the massacre.

Yesterday's attack comes after the mayor of Mariupol said Russian forces forcefully deported several thousand people from the besieged city last week.

Russian forces bombed a school where 400 people were taking shelter, officials said
Russian forces bombed a school where 400 people were taking shelter, officials said. Picture: Getty

After Russia had spoken of "refugees" arriving from the strategic port, the city's mayor Vadym Boychenko, compared the actions of Russian forces to the Nazis capturing and deporting civilians during the Second World War.

People in parts of the city now under Russian control were “being illegally deported to enemy territory”, Mariupol’s City Hall said on Sunday.

“People who are being forcibly evacuated to Russia are forced to hand over their Ukrainian passports and are given a piece of paper that has no legal power and it is not recognised anywhere in the world,” it said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, a local offical, said: “The occupiers are sending the residents of Mariupol to filtration camps, checking their phones and seizing their Ukrainian documents."

The claims haven't been independently verified.

Ukraine's president Volodomyr Zelensky condemned Russia's bombing of Mariupol, saying their actions would "go down in history" as being responsible for "war crimes".

In a late-night address, he said: “To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come."

The MoD said this morning that Russian forces were encircling a number of cities in eastern Ukraine.

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In its latest update on the conflict the MoD said: "Over the past week Russian forces have made limited progress in capturing these cities; instead, Russia has increased its indiscriminate shelling of urban areas resulting in widespread destruction and large numbers of civilian casualties.

"It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower to support assaults on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties."

President Zelensky has called on the Swiss government to freeze the bank accounts of all Russian oligarchs.

Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that Mr Zelensky, who spoke via livestream on Saturday to thousands of anti-war protesters in the Swiss city of Bern, said: "in your banks are the funds of the people who unleashed this war. Help to fight this. So that their funds are frozen. (...) It would be good to take away those privileges from them."

The Ukrainian president also criticised the Swiss multinational food conglomerate Nestle, which has decided not to withdraw from Russia for the time being as opposed to many other international companies.

Mr Zelensky's speech was dubbed into German. When he called for the blocking of oligarchs' accounts, great applause erupted.

The Ukrainian leader has also said the siege of Mariupol will go down in history for war crimes committed by Russian troops.

Russian forces advanced deeper into Ukraine's besieged and battered port city, with heavy fighting shutting down a major steel plant there.

The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war's worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the invasion.

Evacuations from Mariupol and other cities proceeded along eight of 10 humanitarian corridors on Saturday.

Speaking in a video address early on Sunday, Mr Zelensky suspended 11 political parties with links to Russia.

Mr Zelensky said that "given a large-scale war unleashed by the Russian Federation and links between it and some political structures, the activities of a number of political parties is suspended for the period of the martial law".

He added that "activities by politicians aimed at discord and collaboration will not succeed".

The announcement follows the introduction of the martial law that envisages a ban on parties associated with Russia.