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Closer to 600 dead in Mariupol theater bombing, AP evidence suggests

An investigation conducted by The Associated Press has uncovered evidence that the deadly attack on the drama theater and civilian shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine was far deadlier than originally estimated, and killed almost "double the death toll cited so far," AP writes.

The AP investigation places the total dead closer to 600, rather than the Ukrainian government's original tally of 300. Journalists arrived at their number by reconstructing a 3D model of the building's floorplan "reviewed repeatedly by direct witnesses, most from within the theater, who described in detail where people were sheltering," AP writes.

AP says its report also disproves Russian claims that the theater was demolished by or served as a military base for Ukrainian forces; none of the witnesses report having seen Ukrainian soldiers inside the theater, and "not one person" doubted the blast was the result of a Russian air attack. 

"This strong witness testimony will be important in establishing that (Russian illegal) conduct was widespread or systematic," said James Gow of King's College London.

The Mariupol theater bombing stands out as the war's "single deadliest known attack against civilians" thus far, AP writes. Since then, Russia has continued to work to capture the strategically-important city, but Ukraine has yet to acknowledge defeat.