Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov on Thursday slammed the Russian military for an alleged airstrike on a theatre in Mariupol where more than 1,000 women and children had reportedly taken shelter.

Speaking to the European parliament via a video conference, Reznikov highlighted the plight of civilians in Mariupol, and went on to call the pilot who bombed the theatre a “monster.”

“You’ve probably already heard that this theater which was struck by missiles, a theater where 1,200 women and children were hiding,” the 55-year-old told European lawmakers.

Also read | At least 103 children killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion: President Volodymyr Zelensky

Reznikov went on to emphasize the brutish nature of the airstrike, and told the European parliament that the world “CHILDREN” had been written in huge letters in Russian in front of the theatre to warn Russian forces that the building was housing kids.

“And you can see from the maps, from the drones that around this theater, big letters of ‘children’ were written so that the pilot of the plane which was throwing the bombs could see ‘children’, and still, in spite of that, this monster has bombed the theater,” the Ukrainian defence minister said.

Both the Associated Press and CNN confirmed through satellite imagery and geolocation that such a sign had indeed been put up.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also condemned the airstrike on social media, writing, “Another horrendous war crime in Mariupol. Massive Russian attack on the Drama Theater where hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding. The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter. Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals!”

Also read | Zelensky slams Germany for putting its economy over Ukraine’s security

At the time of writing this article, no official casualty count had been released. While Ukrainian authorities said that some had survived the airstrike and were emerging from the rubble, the fates of hundreds of innocent civilians remain unknown as of now.

The attack on the Mariupol theatre is yet another Russian attack on a civilian target: Russian forces had earlier attacked a maternity hospital in the besieged city, and have been accused of numerous attacks on civilians by Ukrainian authorities who have pleaded with the West to recognise Russian attacks on civilians as war crimes.

Russia, however, has denied the charges and accused Ukraine of using disinformation to mislead people.