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Press TV in Mariupol: Russia says Ukraine blew up theater to frame Moscow

Frame grab from video captured by Press TV's correspondent on May 18, 2022, shows the aftermath of destruction of the drama theater in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

The Ukrainian military has blown up the southeastern city of Mariupol's drama theater so it can blame it on Russian forces, Press TV's correspondent quotes Russia as saying from the city.

"The now-famous drama theater. NATO accused Russia of bombing the theater in March. Russia denies it, saying the Ukrainians blew it up to blame it on them," John Miller said on Wednesday.

"One of the workmen led me down to the basement. It is said to be the place where between 100 and 600 people died. Still the putrid smell of presumably many bodies remain among the rubble," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the “special military operation” on February 24 in order to “demilitarize” the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine. In 2014, the two regions declared themselves new republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government.

Ordering the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years were suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”

Another goal sought by the operation was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, the Russian head of state also said back then, apparently referring to the far-right Azov militant outfit and the influence it wields across Ukraine’s political and military spheres.

Miller said the Russian operation had managed to "turn the dogmatic will of the Ukrainian military and the neo-Nazi Azov battalion eventually to dust."

"The majority of the Ukrainian military and the neo-Nazi Azov battalion have now surrendered, drawing to a close the most brutal battle of this war so far," added the reporter.

Miller also interviewed a Russian soldier outside Mariupol's sprawling Azovstal steelworks, where hundreds of Ukrainian forces are still holed up.

"Our task here is to keep the line of defense to block their territory so that no one can leave," said the soldier. "We do not shoot in order to give them an opportunity to surrender. They are negotiating now."

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