Ukraine says Russia bombed a children’s hospital in besieged Mariupol

  • The city council said the hospital was hit by several Russian bombs
  • Russia earlier agreed to a ceasefire in exchange for the evacuation
  • Moscow denies targeting civilians
  • Kyiv calls for a cease-fire to restore strength in Chernobyl

Lviv, Ukraine (March 9) (Reuters) – Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of bombing a children’s hospital in the besieged port of Mariupol during a ceasefire agreement to enable civilians trapped in the city to flee.

Russia said it would hold a ceasefire to allow thousands of civilians to flee from Mariupol and other besieged cities on Wednesday. But the city council said the hospital was hit several times in an airstrike.

“The devastation is massive,” she said in an online post.

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President Volodymyr Zelensky called it “atrocious”.

“A direct hit by the Russian forces on the maternity hospital. People and children under the rubble,” he said on Twitter.

Asked by Reuters for comment on the bombing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian forces do not shoot at civilian targets.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry released video footage of what it said was a hospital showing holes where the windows were supposed to be in a three-storey building. Huge piles of smoldering rubble littered the scene.

The governor of the Donetsk region said 17 people were injured, including women in labour. It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of these reports.

Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had violated a ceasefire around the southern port, which lies between Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

He wrote on Twitter: “Russia continues to hold more than 400,000 people hostage in Mariupol, prevents humanitarian aid and evacuations. Indiscriminate bombing continues.” “Nearly 3,000 newborns lack medicine and food.”

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Ukraine said at least 1,170 civilians had been killed in Mariupol since the invasion began, and 47 were buried in a mass grave on Wednesday. The numbers could not be verified.

The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the evacuation failure and said the situation facing civilians in Mariupol had reached a “catastrophic level”.

A senior US defense official said there were indications that the Russian military was using so-called “dumb” bombs that were not accurate and that Washington had noted “increasing damage to civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties”. Read more

Local officials in other cities said some civilians left on Wednesday via safe corridors, including Sumy in eastern Ukraine and Enerhodar in the south.

But Russian authorities said Russian forces had prevented a convoy of 50 buses from evacuating civilians from the town of Bucha outside Kyiv. They added that talks continued to allow the convoy to leave.

“In just two weeks, the houses were reduced to rubble,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said of the situation in Ukraine.

“Families are crammed underground for hours on end, seeking refuge from the fighting. Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heating, no electricity, no medical care.”

More than two million people have fled Ukraine since President Vladimir Putin launched the ground, sea and air invasion on February 24. Moscow describes its move as a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and expel leaders it calls “neo-Nazis”.

Russian forces maintain territory stretching along the northeastern borders of Ukraine, east and southeast. Fighting has broken out on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, while Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, is being bombarded.

Ahead of reports of the attack on the hospital, the UN human rights office in Geneva said it had verified 516 civilians killed and 908 wounded since the conflict began.

Chernobyl

Kyiv and its Western allies say Russia is inventing pretexts to justify an unjustified war against a democracy of 44 million people. Moscow accuses Ukraine of trying to develop biological or nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin said Washington should explain “Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories,” a suggestion Washington has already denied as “ridiculous propaganda.” Read more

The operator of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant said it was concerned about safety at Chernobyl, the dead site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, as it said blackouts due to fighting meant spent nuclear fuel could not be cooled.

Foreign Minister Kuleba said the standby diesel generators have a capacity of 48 hours. “After that, the cooling systems of the spent nuclear fuel storage facility will shut down, making radioactive leakage imminent,” he said.

The IAEA said the heat from the spent fuel and the volume of cooling water was “sufficient to effectively remove the heat without the need for an electrical supply”. Read more

‘surge measures’

The war quickly threw Prussia into economic isolation, as well as near-universal international condemnation.

The United States on Tuesday banned imports of Russian oil, while Western companies are rapidly withdrawing from the Russian market. The ruling United Russia party said it had proposed confiscating the assets of foreign companies leaving.

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Ukraine and Russia are the largest exporters of foodstuffs and minerals. Together they account for nearly a third of global grain trade. Prices of staple foods have skyrocketed around the world, penalizing remote countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Ukraine said on Wednesday it would halt its main agricultural exports until the end of the year. Russia has also said it needs to maintain domestic supplies of grain.

In the latest sign of a global food crisis, Indonesia said it would curb sales of palm oil after global prices rose. Read more

sudden resistance

Western countries believe that Moscow was aiming to quickly overthrow the Kyiv government in a lightning strike and are forced to adapt after underestimating the Ukrainian resistance. Russia held large areas in the south but could not yet control any large cities in northern or eastern Ukraine, with an offensive force halted on a highway north of Kyiv.

Vadim Denisenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, said on Wednesday that Russia desperately needed to achieve some kind of victory in cities such as Mariupol and Kiev, before negotiating.

“So, our job is to hold out for the next seven or 10 days,” he said.

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(Reporting by the Reuters offices; writing by Peter Graf and Philippa Flechcher; editing by Tomasz Janowski and Angus McSwan)

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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