Cell phone video captured the last moments of a Russian actress's life, as she sang to a theater full of Russian marines targeted by Ukrainian missiles in a what a Ukrainian commander called a "revenge" attack.
On Sunday, members of Russia's 810th Marine Brigade filled a theater at the House of Culture in the village of Kumachovo in what was previously Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast (province), but which Russia now calls the Donetsk People's Republic. The event was a combination awards ceremony and concert to mark Russia's Day of Missile Forces and Artillery.
Video from the event circulating on social media shows 40-year-old Russian actress Polina Menshikh singing and playing guitar. The theater shakes from an explosion, debris falls from the ceiling and the video suddenly goes black while Marines can be heard yelling.
The St. Petersburg Portal theater confirms that an artillery strike on Nov. 19 killed actress Polina Menshikh during a live performance for Russian troops in Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk region. A video captured her final moments. Two dozen soldiers were also reportedly killed. pic.twitter.com/ek8uiksc6k— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) November 22, 2023
“They smashed the volunteers’ cars with one HIMARS rocket, and with the second one—the dressing room with the artists and the stage,” a service member told Russian media. He alleged the Ukrainians employed a "double-tap" tactic, first attacking the venue and then hitting rescue crews who flocked to the scene.
Menshikh, who was also a director and choreographer, was taken to a hospital where she died. According to reports, the venue was struck by missiles fired from M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) supplied to Ukraine by the United States.
Via Telegram, Robert Brovdi, who commands a Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit known as the "Birds of Magyar," said the barrage was carried out as an act of revenge on behalf of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade. A Russian attack on an awards ceremony coinciding with Ukraine's Artillery Forces Day killed 20 soldiers from that unit on Nov. 3.
“Ukraine’s defense forces quickly determined the venue of the Russians’ celebration and warmly congratulated them,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement posted to Telegram. Ukraine claimed that about 20 Russian marines died; Russia has released no casualty count.
A Russia-aligned military blogger condemned the country's military leadership for hosting the event just 37 miles from the front lines, the New York Post reports: “Almost two years of war, and the untaught idiots still do not know what to do and what not to do.”
Alexander Kots, a Russian tabloid journalist, saluted Menshikh, writing, "Polina was aware of the danger. She was a wonderful person, very fragile, light and almost weightless, but with such a big and brave heart."