Donetsk, May 2 - DAN. Dozens of bodies have been discovered under the ruins of the Mariupol Drama Theatre, blown up by Ukrainian nationalists, the DPR Head Denis Pushilin told journalists on Monday.

"I hoped there will be different figures, not those broadcasted, but we have discovered several dozens of bodies. The debris removal is ongoing," he said.

The search and debris removal operation is impeded by the heavy presence of UXO and other technical obstacles.

The theatre was destroyed in mid-March as Ukrainian nationalistic units first turned it into their base with fire positions, and then a place where civilians were held hostage. When Ukrainian troops exploded the building, there were still civilians inside, some sources estimate their amount as up to several hundreds.

Mariupol is the largest city on the shores of the Azov sea. Founded in 1778, it has become an important industrial hub in Donbass and a major sea port.

On May 9, 2014 Ukrainian armed formations opened fire on a peaceful Victory Day celebration rally, killing many of the city residents. On May 11 same year a referendum voted massively in favour of an independent DPR. Kiev forces occupied the city on June 13, 2014.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the special military operation to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, the joint DPR-LPR coalition launched on February 25, 2022 its operation to liberate Mariupol. *ot