Airstrike hits a maternity hospital in Ukraine, injuring 17

A maternity facility in the besieged port city of Mariupol was destroyed by a Russian bomb on Wednesday, amid rising warnings from the West that Moscow’s invasion is poised to take a more cruel and indiscriminate turn. According to Ukrainian officials, at least 17 persons were injured in the attack.

The Mariupol complex was hit by a succession of blasts that blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one structure, causing the ground to tremble more than a mile distant. As light snow drifted down on smoldering and mangled automobiles and trees smashed by the blast, police, and military hurried to the scene to evacuate victims, carrying a heavily pregnant and wounded woman on a stretcher.

Another mother sobbed as she hugged her child in her arms. An explosive hole in the courtyard was at least two floors deep.

Standing in the debris, Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, remarked, “Today Russia committed a huge crime.” “There is no justification for this war crime.”

Bombs exploded in two hospitals in Zhytomyr, a city of 260,000 people west of Kyiv, one of which is a children’s hospital, according to Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn on Facebook. According to him, the exact number of casualties is still being ascertained. His claim could not be verified independently.

The Mariupol strike, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, trapped children and others beneath the wreckage.

“It’s a children’s hospital,” says the narrator. A maternity facility. What threat did they pose to the Russian Federation?” In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy inquired, switching to Russian to convey his dismay at the airstrike. “What kind of country is this, Russia, that is scared of hospitals, especially maternity facilities, and destroys them?”

He asked the West to implement even harder sanctions so that Russia “can no longer carry out this slaughter.”

Zelenskyy tweeted a video of brightly painted hallways scattered with twisted metal.

“There are few things more despicable than preying on the helpless and vulnerable,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be called “to account for his heinous crimes.”

Since the violence began, the World Health Organization has recorded 18 attacks on health institutions and ambulances, killing ten people. It was unclear whether the assault on the maternity facility was included in that figure.

In a call with his Ukrainian colleague, Dmytro Kuleba, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken criticized Russia’s “unconscionable attacks,” according to the State Department. The call also covered diplomatic efforts to halt the invasion.

Russia’s military is struggling more than expected two weeks into its assault on Ukraine, but Putin’s invading force of more than 150,000 men retains potentially insurmountable firepower as it closes in on major cities.

With the exception of Russian progress on the towns of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, American military officials reported little change on the ground during the preceding 24 hours, despite intensive shelling on civilian areas. Officials talked on the condition of anonymity in order to assess the overall military situation.

Authorities announced new cease-fires on Wednesday to allow thousands of residents to flee the bombarded towns and cities around Kyiv, including Mariupol, Enerhodar, and Volnovakha in the south, Izyum in the east, and Sumy in the northeast.

Although it was unclear whether anyone was able to flee neighboring cities, people poured out of Kyiv’s outskirts, many heading for the city center, as explosions rang out throughout the capital and air raid sirens sounded frequently.

The evacuees planned to board trains destined for western Ukraine regions that were not under attack from there.

Because the Ukrainians blew up the concrete span leading to Kyiv days earlier to delay the Russian advance, civilians evacuating the Kyiv suburb of Irpin were forced to cross the slick wooden boards of a temporary bridge.

Firefighters pulled an elderly man to safety in a wheelbarrow, a youngster held the hand of a helping soldier, and a woman inched her way ahead, carrying a fluffy kitten inside her winter coat, while occasional gunfire echoed behind them. They walked past a smashed van with the words “Our Ukraine” scrawled on its windows in the dust.

“At the moment, we only have a small window of opportunity,” said Yevhen Nyshchuk, a member of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces. “Even if there is a cease-fire in place right now, shells could fall at any time.”

Attempts to build safe evacuation channels in recent days have mainly failed due to what Ukraine claims are Russian attacks. In a phone conversation with Germany’s chancellor, Putin, however, accused militant Ukrainian nationalists of impeding the evacuations.

Local authorities rushed to bury the dead from the past two weeks of the war in a mass grave in Mariupol, a vital city of 430,000 inhabitants on the Sea of Azov. At one of the city’s old cemeteries, workmen excavated a ditch about 25 meters (yards) long and made the sign of the cross as they pushed bodies covered in carpets or sacks over the edge.

According to Zelenskyy’s office, almost 1,200 people died during the city’s nine-day siege.

Since Putin’s forces entered, tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers are believed to have died. According to the United Nations, more than 2 million people have fled the country, the largest refugee exodus in Europe since World War II ended.

Fighting knocked out power to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power station, increasing concerns about the spent radioactive fuel that must be kept cold at the site. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, however, said the loss of electricity had “no critical impact on safety.”

The crisis is likely to worsen as Moscow’s forces increase their city-bombing campaign in reaction to what appears to be stronger Ukrainian resistance and greater Russian losses than expected.

As Putin tries to regain momentum, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace claimed Russia’s assault will become “more violent and indiscriminate,” echoing statements made by the CIA director a day earlier.

Fighting has continued northwest of Kyiv, according to the British Defense Ministry. Russian forces ringed Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Mariupol, which were extensively shelled.

According to Ukraine’s military, Russian forces are stationing military equipment on farms and near residential buildings in the northern city of Chernihiv. According to the report, Russians dressed in civilian clothes are marching on Mykolaiv, a Black Sea shipbuilding center with a population of half a million people.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is bolstering fortifications in cities around the country, including in the north, south, and east, while soldiers around Kyiv is “holding the line” against the Russian advance, according to officials.

Some of Ukraine’s volunteer fighters practiced with rocket-propelled grenade launchers in a Kyiv park on Wednesday.

“I only have one son,” Mykola Matulevskiy, 64, a retired martial arts instructor who was with his son, Kostyantin, remarked. “It’s all my son’s fault.”

But now they’ll battle together: “We can’t have it any other way because it’s our motherland.” First and foremost, we must defend our nation.”

On the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022, a mortuary worker wheels a stretcher used to carry dead bodies before they are buried. (Photo courtesy of AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Police officers and soldiers in Irpin, a 60,000-person town, assisted elderly inhabitants in leaving their homes. On a makeshift stretcher, one victim was carried out of a destroyed structure, while another was pushed toward Kyiv in a shopping cart. Residents who were fleeing reported they had been without power and water for four days.

The crisis for civilians is worsening in and around Kyiv, according to regional administration chief Oleksiy Kuleba, with the situation particularly bad in the suburbs.

“Russia is purposefully inducing a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, preventing people from fleeing and shelling and bombing tiny towns,” he claimed.

The situation is considerably worse in Mariupol, where efforts to evacuate civilians and deliver desperately needed food, water, and medicine were thwarted on Tuesday due to what the Ukrainians described as ongoing Russian bombardment.

The city took advantage of a break in the shelling on Wednesday to bury 70 people in a hurry. Some of the people were troops, but the majority were civilians.

The renovation was completed quickly and without fanfare. There were no mourners in attendance, no relatives to say their final farewell.

A woman stood at the cemetery’s entrance, asking if her mother was among those being buried. She had been.


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