Russia strike on Mariupol hospital hits children's and maternity ward

Russia strike on Mariupol hospital hits children's and maternity ward By A Robin - March 09, 2022
Maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol

Maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol

A maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has been decimated in a 'direct hit' by Russian rockets leaving children buried in the rubble, President Zelensky has said, in what he described as an 'atrocity.'

Footage has emerged of badly wounded patients and nurses being evacuated from decimated buildings, while pregnant women were carried out on stretchers into a courtyard covered in rubble and littered with huge craters.

Zelensky himself posted a video showing the badly damaged hospital buildings, filmed inside a destroyed ward room with its windows blown out and ceiling partially collapsed. More footage showed a car park covered in rubble and the smouldering wrecks of vehicles as injured families staggered into the freezing air while snow fell. 

'Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity,' the President tweeted. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the strike as 'depraved' and vowed to step up support to the beleaguered Ukrainian military.

He said the UK was considering more support for Ukraine to defend itself against airstrikes and would hold President Vladimir Putin to account 'for his terrible crimes'.

'There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless,' the Prime Minister declared.  

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also described the hospital attack as 'absolutely abhorrent', but continued to reject Ukraine's request for a no-fly zone to be imposed over its skies.

Speaking in Washington, she said: 'The best way we can protect the skies is through anti-air weaponry which the UK is now going to be supplying to Ukraine.

'Of course the attack on the hospital is absolutely abhorrent, reckless and appalling.'

Earlier Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the MPs that the Ministry of Defence was looking at whether they could supply anti-aircraft missiles as well as more anti-tank weapons, while other Western officials expressed concern that Putin could next resort to the use of 'non-conventional weapons' such as chemical weapons, in the conflict.

Mariupol's city council said the hospital had suffered 'colossal' damage but did not immediately give a figure of the wounded and dead. 

The deputy head of Mr Zelensky's office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said authorities are trying to establish the number of victims.

Video footage from the aftermath of the attack showed that large parts of the hospital had completely collapsed, while blood soaked mattresses were pictured lying in hallways. 

Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment for more than a week, with food, water and electricity cut off several days ago - with the Red Cross describing conditions there as 'apocalyptic'. 

Just hours before the hospital was hit, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that 3,000 babies were without food or medicines and begged for a humanitarian corridor to allow them to flee. Moscow had promised a ceasefire in the city today so civilians could be evacuated, but failed for the fourth time to keep its word.

Residents of Mariupol were pictured on Wednesday dumping bodies into mass graves dug on the outskirts of the city in a desperate attempt to remove the dead amid the sustained Russian bombardment. 

It is not the first time that Russian airstrikes have targeted hospitals. While fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2016, Putin's generals were accused of 'deliberately and systematically' blowing up hospitals as a way of weakening the city of Aleppo ahead of a ground assault. 

Observers have suggested that Russia is now using a Syria-style battleplan against Ukraine after its early precision strikes failed.

The Ukrainian Healthcare Center, a think-tank based in the country, says that between the outbreak of fighting on February 24 and today, their team documented 42 cases of Russian forces attacking either healthcare facilities or medics in order to deliberately provoke a 'humanitarian crisis'.

Hospitals had been struck in every theatre where Russian forces were operating, the think-tank said, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv.

'The humanitarian catastrophe is a part of Russia's hybrid war. [It] intends to spread panic, create a flow of refugees at the borders and force the Ukrainian government to surrender,' said Pavlo Kovtonyuk, co-founder of the think-tank.

The bombing took place during what was supposed to be a ceasefire in Mariupol so that civilians could evacuate. It marks the fourth time a so-called 'humanitarian corridor' out of the city has failed because Russian forces opened fire. 

The mayor of Izyum, to the east of Kharkiv, said evacuations that were supposed to be underway there today also had to stop because Russians were bombing the escape route. But in Sumy, a short distance away, some civilians had managed to make it out. Successful evacuations also took place in Enerhodar, in the south, with women and children able to leave.

It is feared the evacuations are simply a precursor to Russia stepping up its bombardment of the cities to wear down dogged Ukrainian defenders before rolling in troops and tanks to capture them. CIA Director William Burns, briefing Congress on Putin's state of mind Tuesday, warned the 'angry and frustrated' despot is 'likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.'

Giving an update on the military situation this afternoon, Ukrainian commanders said Russian units continue to try and surround the capital Kyiv with attacks taking place to the west and north-east of the city, with several highways blocked.

Fighting is also going on close to the city of Sumy in an attempt to surround Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv, commanders said. Battles have also broken out around the city of Mykolaiv, in the south, as Russians attempt to push out from Kherson towards Odessa - but were turned back. 

Ukrainian commanders also said Russian military police had rounded up 400 activists protesting against the invasion in the occupied city of Kherson - as the long arm of Vladimir Putin's police state reached across the border to grab people on foreign soil. 

Meanwhile at least 10 people were killed in a Russian military attack in the eastern Ukrainian town of Severodonestk on Tuesday, a local official for the Luhansk region said in a statement on Telegram.

The Russian military 'opened fire' on residential homes and other buildings in the town, he said, without immediately specifying whether it was an artillery attack. The region has seen heavy fighting in recent days. 

Russia's defence ministry meanwhile acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that some conscripts had been sent to fight on the frontlines in Ukraine, just days after Putin promised that only professional soldiers would be sent in. 

Some associations of soldiers' mothers in Russia had raised concerns about a number of conscripts going incommunicado at the start of what Kremlin calls a 'special military operation' in Ukraine, suggesting they could have been sent to fight despite a lack of adequate training. 

The revelation comes just one week after Russia's parliament passed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally 'fake' news about the military.

'Unfortunately, we have discovered several facts of the presence of conscripts in units taking part in the special military operation in Ukraine. Practically all such soldiers have been pulled out to Russia,' the defence ministry said, promising to prevent such situations in the future.


By A Robin - March 09, 2022

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