On March 16, the Donetsk Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol, Ukraine, was bombed. The building reportedly housed scores of civilians at the time. Maxar satellite images showed the word “CHILDREN” written in Russian in large letters on the pavement outside. The incident occurred within hours of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual address to Congress, where he asked again for the United States to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Western and Ukrainian observers immediately assumed the worst. “Russian forces ‘purposefully destroyed’ theatre in Mariupol where civilians were taking shelter, Ukrainian officials say,” read a notification pushed out by Twitter. “Massive Russian attack on the Drama Theater where hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding,” tweeted Ukrainian politician Dmytro Kuleba. “Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter.” It seemed a clear-cut case of Muscovite barbarism in a savage war.
But days before the bombing, local reports warned that Ukrainian forces, specifically the Azov Battalion, were planning a false flag operation at the theater. Civilians would be endangered or even killed before the world’s watching eyes.
While it’s difficult to know what’s true in this conflict, numerous accounts paint the same picture: civilians being endangered, even killed, by Ukrainian forces, including Azov, in Mariupol who won’t allow them to move through humanitarian corridors.
The simplest explanation for the Drama Theater bombing is that Russia is at fault here. But these allegations, in the context of a war that has been distorted by misinformation, merit examination precisely because the incident had the supposedly desired effect. American pundits and politicians like Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois cited the bombing as cause for a no-fly zone.
The official narrative seems wrong on its face. So far, more than 30,000 people have been evacuated through humanitarian corridors from Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian troops. If Moscow wanted to slaughter civilians, it could have easily targeted vehicles rolling in bumper-to-bumper traffic out of the city, heading in the direction of the pro-Russian separatist-controlled north.
Why evacuate tens of thousands of civilians and observe protocols designed to reduce non-combatant casualties if you want to butcher them? This is not to say civilians have not been killed during the conflict—they have—but Russia is not deliberately targeting them as part of a genocidal campaign. These facts, coupled with what happened in the days before the bombing, raise questions no one in the mainstream is asking.
The earliest known report of imminent danger came on March 12. A message on a Telegram channel associated with Dmitriy Steshen, a correspondent from Mariupol for the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, warned that Zelensky’s forces were planning two false flag operations: one at the Turkish-built Sultan Suleiman Mosque, and the other at the Mariupol theater.
Both would appear as if the Russians had deliberately targeted civilians. The mosque would drag Turkey into the war, while the drama theater would supply a justification for closing the skies over Ukraine, ideally bringing a US-led NATO into direct confrontation with Russia. The second half of the message about the theater reads:
Ukrainian soldiers with the drama theater’s administration rounded up women, children, and elderly from Mariupol into the theatre building so that when the “right” moment happens they could blow the theatre up with the people. This is done so that they could scream to the whole world that Russia’s aviation did this and that the Ukrainian sky needs to be closed immediately, etc. Do not be silent, we need as many people to know.Later, investigative journalist Max Blumenthal noted that Western media repeated Ukrainian officials’ claims about the mosque in Mariupol being shelled by Russia with scores of civilians, including children, inside. “However, Turkish state media revealed that the Ukrainian government had misled Western reporters,” Blumenthal wrote. “The Kanuni Sultan Suleyman Mosque was not only fully intact, it had never been hit by Russian fire.” Zelensky and his officials had previously made similar misleading claims about the bombing of the memorial at Babi Yar, a ravine in Kiev that was also the site of massacres committed by the Nazis during World War II. But Israeli journalist Ron Ben Yisha reported after inspecting the site that the memorial had not been destroyed or damaged.
On March 13, a Twitter user named Elena Evdokimova issued another warning. “Information allegedly came from Mariupol locals ( reminder – they are mostly ethnic Russian) that neo-Nazi from Azov gathered Mariupol women, children & elderly into the building of Mariupol drama theatre and are going to blow it up, blaming the victims on ‘Russian shelling,’” Evdokimova wrote. One of the final known indicators popped up early on March 16. A Telegram channel associated with Daniil Bezsonov, the DNR Deputy Minister of Information, claimed to have made contact with an Azov defector.
“The militant of the Nazi regiment ‘Azov’ has just escaped from his family and joined our side. He asked for anonymity and we guaranteed it, as his family is in Ukrainian-controlled territory and he fears that his actions will be cut to pieces by other Ukrainian Nazis,” the message began.
He told us a lot of interesting information, which is of operational importance and about the atrocities committed by the Ukrainian Nazis in Mariupol. But the most important thing is that the headquarters of the Ukrainian militants is located in the basement of the Mariupol Drama Theater, and the hall of the theater is completely filled with civilians, who are guarded by 12 militants of the Azov Regiment, so that they do not run away.The theater was hit a little while later.
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