Russia Accused of Covering Up Death Toll in Demolished Mariupol Theater

A Ukrainian official believes the public will never know how many people died in a blast in his city due to Russian troops dismantling the debris and removing victims' bodies.

On Friday, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, posted on social media that Russian troops had finished taking away the bodies of those killed in the March bombing of the city's drama theater. However, he stated that the exact number of those who perished in the bombing will remain unknown.

"Now we will never know how many civilians from Mariupol were actually killed by a Russian bomb at the Drama Theater. The victims were buried under unnamed numbers in a mass grave in Mangush," Andriushchenko wrote, according to an English translation of the post.

On March 16, Russians bombed the theater, where up to 1,200 people were reportedly using the building as a safe haven from the Russian invasion. After the bombing, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko called it a "genocide" of Ukrainians.

Advisor to Mariupol mayor upset about Russians
An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine, has suggested that Russians may have covered up how many people were killed in the bombing of a local theater. Above, Russian emergency workers are pictured in the destroyed Mariupol drama theater on May 10. STRINGER/Getty Images

Initially, there were indications that most of the individuals at the location had survived the bombing. The former spokesperson for Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, Iuliia Mendel, posted on Twitter after the attack that the majority of the people hiding in the theater "stayed alive."

Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter with the Kyiv Independent, posted on social media on March 17 that it was a "miracle" that those "hiding in a basement at the Drama Theater in Mariupol survived the airstrike."

However, in early May, the Associated Press reported that the bombing of the Mariupol theater was the deadliest attack on civilians since the Russian invasion began in late February. Evidence indicated that as many as 600 people may have died in the attack, a number that was more than double what was initially reported, the AP stated.

On May 9, as part of Russia's Victory Day celebrations, which recognizes the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II, Russian forces reportedly marched through the city.

"The occupiers celebrate Victory Day on the bones of Mariupol. Hundreds of citizens killed by the Russian army continue to be taken to the mass grave near the village of Vynohradne," Mariupol's City Council posted in a statement on Telegram about the occasion.

After the theater in Mariupol was destroyed, Italy offered some help. Dario Franceschini, Italy's minister of culture, announced that his country's cabinet had signed off on a proposal to help Ukraine rebuild the facility.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministry of affairs offices for comment.