- 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 (Reuters) – A Russian air strike severely damaged a children’s hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, burying patients under rubble and injuring women in childbirth, Ukraine said.
The bombing, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called “atrocities”, occurred despite a ceasefire agreement to enable thousands of civilians trapped in the city to flee.
The city council said an air strike had hit the hospital several times, causing “tremendous” damage.
Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com
“A direct hit by the Russian forces on the maternity hospital. People and children under the rubble,” Zelensky said on Twitter.
“Russian forces do not shoot at civilian targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters when asked for comment.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry released footage of what it said was a hospital, showing smashed windows and piles of smoldering rubble.
The governor of the Donetsk region said 17 people were injured, including women in labour. A UN spokesperson in Geneva said the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is checking the number of casualties.
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.”
Ukraine said 67 children had been killed across the country since the invasion, and at least 1,170 civilians had died in Mariupol.
The numbers could not be verified, but satellite imagery company Maxar said the images showed extensive damage to homes, apartment buildings, grocery stores and shopping malls.
The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the evacuation failure.
A senior US defense official said there were indications that the Russian military was using imprecise bombs. Read more
Local officials said some civilians left several Ukrainian cities via safe corridors, including Sumy in the east and Enerhodar in the south, but that Russian forces prevented buses from evacuating civilians from the town of Bucha, outside the capital, Kyiv.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said homes were reduced to rubble across Ukraine.
“Families are crammed underground for hours, 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 Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24. Moscow describes its move as a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and expel leaders it calls “neo-Nazis”.
Kyiv and its Western allies say Russia is inventing pretexts to justify an unjustified war against a democracy of 44 million people.
Russian forces hold territory along the northeastern borders of Ukraine, and the east and southeast. Fighting erupts on the outskirts of Kyiv, while Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, is being bombed.
A Russian offensive force has stalled north of Kyiv, and Western countries say the Kremlin has had to adjust its plan to quickly topple the government in the face of fierce resistance.
Thousands of Ukrainian refugees, mostly women and children, crossed the borders in neighboring countries on Wednesday.
Irina Mihalinka told Reuters in Isakia, Romania, that Irina Mihalinka left her home northeast of the Black Sea port of Odessa after hiding in the basement to take cover from Russian bombing.
“When we were walking, a bridge was blown up. And when we crossed the wreckage, because there was no other way out, there were bodies of Russian (soldiers) lying there,” she said after arriving at the shelter.
Kuleba is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Turkey on Thursday.
He said in a statement that Ukraine wanted a ceasefire, the liberation of its territory and the resolution of all humanitarian issues, but added: “Frankly… my expectations from the talks are low.”
Moscow says its demands, including that Kyiv take a neutral stance and give up its aspirations to join NATO, must be met until it ends its offensive.
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 in 1986, where it said blackouts due to fighting meant spent nuclear fuel could not be cooled. The Russian Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the power cuts.
Koleba 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
A nuclear expert familiar with the plant’s system said the main question would be how quickly energy could be restored.
“The power outage may lead to water evaporation in the storage facility and the exposure of spent fuel rods,” said the expert, who asked not to be identified. “It could eventually melt and that could lead to significant radioactive emissions.”
The war caused economic isolation of Russia as foreign governments and institutions imposed severe sanctions and companies closed their operations. The World Bank’s chief economist told Reuters it is close to defaulting on its debt.
Putin’s government took more measures to support the economy and said it would respond to the US ban on its oil and energy exports as the ruble plunged to record levels. Read more
The ruling United Russia party has proposed confiscating the assets of foreign companies leaving after more Western companies announced their withdrawals.
Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of foodstuffs and minerals, accounting for nearly a third of global grain trade. Prices of staple foods have skyrocketed around the world in what is fast becoming a global food crisis.
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.
Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com
(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.
Former Wagner commander says he regrets fighting in Ukraine
Australia removes the British monarchy from its banknotes
An Iranian couple has been jailed for street dancing