Global outrage over ‘barbaric’ bombing of children’s hospital in Ukraine


Worldwide condemnation quickly followed after an apparent Russian air strike destroyed a children’s hospital in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol on Wednesday, as Moscow’s war on its western neighbour entered its second week.

The attack triggered renewed global outrage against the government of Vladimir Putin which has been hit by Western sanctions and the withdrawals of foreign firms since the invasion began on 24 February.

The United States condemned the bombing as “barbaric” after the strike buried patients under rubble despite a ceasefire agreement to allow people out of the besieged city.

The attack, which authorities said injured women in labour and left children in the wreckage, is the latest grim incident of the 14-day invasion, the biggest assault on a European state since 1945.

The destruction took place despite a Russian pledge to halt firing so at least some trapped civilians could escape the city, where hundreds of thousands have been sheltering without water or power for more than a week.

A local official said the strike on the recently refurbished maternity hospital, which included a paediatric unit, wounded at least 17 staff.

The city council said the hospital had been hit several times by an air strike, causing “colossal” destruction.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked by Reuters for comment, said: “Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets.” Russia calls its incursion a “special operation” to disarm its neighbour and dislodge leaders it calls “neo-Nazis”.

Condemning the hospital attack as an “war crime,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared video footage showing massive destruction at the complex, saying a “direct strike by Russian troops” had left children under the wreckage.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry posted video footage of what it said was the hospital showing holes where windows should have been in a three-storey building. Huge piles of smouldering rubble littered the scene.

“It is horrifying to see the type of the barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attack “depraved”.

The UN Human Rights body said its monitoring mission was verifying the number of casualties.

“The incident adds to our deep concerns about indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas and civilians trapped in active hostilities in numerous areas,” said spokesperson Liz Throssell.

Ukraine accused Russia of breaking the ceasefire around the southern port.

“Indiscriminate shelling continues,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Satellite image company Maxar said images from earlier in the day showed extensive damage to homes, apartment buildings, grocery stores and shopping centres in Mariupol.

Russia’s defence ministry blamed Ukraine for the failure of the evacuation.

Among more than 2 million total refugees from Ukraine, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday that more than 1 million children have fled the country since the invasion started. At least 37 had been killed and 50 injured, it said.

Around 48,000 Ukrainians have been evacuated through humanitarian corridors, Interfax Ukraine news agency said on Wednesday, citing a senior aide to Zelenskyy.

Local officials said while some had departed from certain locations, Russian forces were preventing buses from evacuating civilians from Bucha, a town near Kyiv.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said houses had been reduced to rubble all across Ukraine. “Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heat, no electricity and no medical care.”

Thousands continued to flood into neighbouring countries. After hiding in the basement to shelter from Russian bombing, Irina Mihalenka left her home northeast of the Black Sea port of Odessa, she told Reuters in Isaccea, Romania.

“When we were walking, a bridge was blown up. And when we crossed over the wreckage, because there was no other way out, there were corpses of Russian people (soldiers) lying there,” she said. (Source: CNA)