Prague marks anniversary of Mariupol theater bombing

Dozens of people gathered in Prague on Saturday evening to mark the first anniversary of the Mariupol theater bombing by Russian forces on March 16, 2022. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 19.03.2023 09:46:00 (updated on 19.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Dozens of people gathered in Prague yesterday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Mariupol theater airstrike on March 16, 2022. During the airstrike, Russian forces bombed the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre, which was being used as an air raid shelter during the siege of Mariupol.

The theater was decimated and estimates for the death toll from the bombing ranged from at least a dozen (according to Amnesty International) to 600 (as reported by the Associated Press). Amnesty International classified the attack as a war crime.

Yesterday's gathering in Prague began at the Czech branch of the UN on Železná street near Old Town Square. Participants walked to the National Theatre in Prague, where they lit candles to spell "AETИ" ("Children"), the same message written in front of the Mariupol theater during the bombing.

The event was organized by the local organization Hlas Ukrajiny (Voice of Ukraine), who also wanted to bring attention to the fates of members of the Azov regiment captured in Mariupol, many of whom are believed to still be in Russian captivity.

"Russia commits war crimes on prisoners of war, and we cannot let the soldiers in captivity to be forgotten," organizers from Voice of Ukraine said about the on the aims of the gathering.

Participants at yesterday's gathering carried Ukrainian and Czech flags, and signs calling for Russia to be removed from the United Nations. The event in Prague was monitored by the city's police officers.

Russia initially claimed that the Mariupol theater airstrike was the work of Ukrainian forces, who attacked the theater by land. However, satellite images from before and after the bombing showed no Ukrainian forces in the area. In those images, "AETИ" ("Children") can be seen spelled out in front of the theater.

At the time of the attack, about 1,000 children were believed to be taking shelter in the Mariupol theater. Hundreds were initially reported to have died in the bombing, with Amnesty International later reporting that at least 12 children had died.

In Prague yesterday, organizers from Voice of Ukraine noted that while prisoner exchanges between Russia and Ukraine have taken place, around 700 members of the Azov regiment have yet to be returned to their homeland.

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