In fact there was ample evidence to show explosives were laid in the theatre by Azov agents in a successful effort to frame Russia - who was accused of the ultimate war crime of targeting a civilian shelter despite "children" being written clearly on the pavement outside; a ridiculous contention, as Russia had no interest in doing something so militarily pointless, and sought to protect civilians who hadn't fled westwards. Despite their low estimate of casualties - based on interviews with refugees from Mariupol only - Amnesty's complex and technical analysis of the pattern of destruction of the theatre came to the absurd conclusion it was caused by two Russian bombs or missiles which penetrated through the roof and floor before exploding and blowing the roof off. When the Amnesty report came out in mid-July, it was duly reported by SBS as confirming previous claims of deliberate Russian targeting and of "likely" 600 casualties. I submitted a long and detailed refutation to SBS, using evidence from local investigators including the ex-SBU Vasily Prozorov, who produced an excellent ten-minute video about the theatre, made following Mariupol's liberation in May. My complaint, including photo analysis is described here and can be downloaded here. Since that time and following the final surrender of the "Azovstal family" from the bunkers under the steel mills on the Eastern side of the river, much rebuilding and repair work has gone on in Mariupol, financed by Russian regional councils using local and Russian labour. This has focused primarily on building new apartment blocks and restoring damaged ones, as well as on constructing a new hospital and other public facilities. The beloved Drama Theatre also took priority as a symbolic cultural site, but with more preparation needed, including the erection of a screen wall around the whole building, on which an impression of the planned building is printed. This illustration can be seen in the image below, though was apparently not noticeable to SBS who had announced the building's destruction only days earlier.
For the Azovstal family however, good news about Mariupol's reconstruction and positive spirit is bad news. The notorious Azov battalion was born in the city - beside the Sea of Azov - following the violent invasion of nationalist forces in early 2014, and subsequent eight year occupation and reign of terror over the predominantly Russian speaking population. This attachment to Mariupol, and affectation of exile is evident in the centre of Kiev, with huge posters hanging on buildings around the central square, where this Christmas stood the "tree of a thousand LEDs" - powered by a generator. Symbolism is everywhere, from the giant red and black heart of Azovstal to the slogans on flags and posters.
I have drawn attention to this before, comparing them with those of the Azov's victims in Donetsk, and the extraordinary massacre of Ukrainian POWs in Yelenovka detention centre. For those still unaware of this particular war crime of the Kiev regime, my article and Eva Bartlett's photos are necessary study. There is no doubt whatsoever who was responsible for the HIMARS strike on the prison, given the direction of the missile and the motive. While local and Russian forces had no interest in killing the prisoners they had saved from Azovstal, but rather could use them in prisoner swaps, Kiev was worried about what these prisoners might give away, either under duress or willingly. Investigators like Vasily Prozorov and Maxim Grigoriev had already conducted some interesting interviews, revealing complicity in torture and other war crimes. What is in question however, is just what the Azovstal family knew, and how much they were party to crimes against their brothers in the battalion. Their pretensions of innocence - particularly of those who retreated beneath the Azovstal steelworks as a last ditch effort to escape imprisonment or execution for their recent and past crimes - ring very hollow. Portrayed as heroes by Kiev and in Western media for "defending Azovstal", they were actually guilty of the worst offence - using the civilians stuck in the bunkers with them to prevent their wholesale slaughter. But there is a sequel to this - an extraordinary new allegiance between the neo-Nazi Azovs and the Israeli Labor party, who seem to find common cause in defending their nationalist cause against barbarian invasions, whether Arab or Russian.
DM December 31st 2022