Ukraine: Children’s hospital hit as Russian airstrikes on cities kill at least 31

Kiev, Ukraine

A Russian missile attack partially destroyed a children’s hospital in Kyiv on Monday, sending terrified patients and their families fleeing for their lives and officials fearing more could be trapped under the rubble.

Moscow launched brazen daylight air strikes on targets in cities across the country Ukraine During the morning rush hour, at least 36 people were killed and 137 injured, according to Ukraine’s emergency service. Large-scale bombing hit areas in the capital, Dnipro, Krivi Rih, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

In an update on Telegram, the emergency service included the number of dead and injured in the capital, now at 22. Two people were killed and at least 16 injured in the attack in Kyiv Okhmatdyt Hospital.

The facility is Ukraine’s largest children’s medical center and is critical to the care of some of the sickest children across the country. Each year, about 7,000 surgeries — including treatments for cancer and hematological diseases — are performed at the hospital, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.

Videos from the scene showed volunteers working with police and security services to sift through the rubble, as staff described how they tried to get children to safety after the attack. Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said intensive care units, oncology departments and surgical units were damaged.

“The main task here is to get people out of the rubble and help those we can reach because we have already taken all the first steps,” he said in a Telegram post.

The attacks were part of a series of rare daylight bombings Ukrainian cities, some of which are heavily populated areas far from the front lines. It comes a day before US President Joe Biden is due to hold a crucial NATO summit in Washington, where new announcements are expected about the alliance’s military, political and financial support for Kiev.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Monday that Moscow had struck “military-industrial facilities of Ukraine and air bases of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” using long-range, high-precision weapons.

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Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Doctors and visitors help clear the debris following the strike.

Natalya Sartudinova, a senior nurse, described the moment the strike hit the hospital, saying, “It was scary, but we survived.”

“It was loud, the windows were shattering,” he told CNN. “As soon as the alarm went off, the children were taken out onto the porch.”

He said two children were in the operating theater at the time of the blast and both were shifted to the basement shelter after their procedures.

“Everything was in smoke, there was no air to breathe. The doctor was cut to pieces. Windows and doors were blown out. A nurse was seriously injured in the hospital,” Zartudinova added. “My hands are still shaking. They don’t let anyone in now, they’re afraid it will collapse.

Yulia Vasilenko, the mother of an 11-year-old cancer patient at the hospital, said her son Denis was rushed out following the strike.

“My son is on painkillers. He has cancer. He has been without medicine for half a day. He was brought down the stairs from the third floor. There was smoke (and) heavy dust,” he said.

A 2-year-old child was undergoing surgery when the strike happened, Irina Filimonova, a senior nurse in the pediatric urology department, told CNN.

“The lights went out, everything went out. We pulled out the tools, flashing lights. Everything was sewn up quickly,” Filimonova said. “The child was brought down (to the shelter). I immediately ran and helped clear the debris. Some of my nursing colleagues and some of the doctors who worked in the operating theaters were cut by shards of glass. Our sector was destroyed.

Another operating theater nurse, Oksana Mosichuk, said they sought refuge in the emergency room when the explosion rocked the building. The medical team then had to put out a fire in their unit, including an operating table that caught fire.

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“Luckily everyone is alive. One of our colleagues was seriously injured, with numerous cuts and lacerations, and was taken away by ambulance. I also have minor injuries, but I’m fine. It was very scary. I was scared for the children,” she said.

A UN team that visited the site after the strike “saw cancer patients receiving treatment in hospital beds set up in parks and on the streets, as medical workers quickly set up treatment areas amid the chaos, dust and debris,” UN human rights chief Volker Dürk said in a statement. .

“Shockingly, one of the strikes severely damaged the intensive care, surgical and oncology wards of Okhmatdyt, Ukraine’s largest pediatric referral hospital, and destroyed its pediatric toxicology department, where children receive dialysis,” Turk said.

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Medical staff and community members are moving debris from damaged areas of the hospital and searching for survivors.

The UN Security Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s deadly strike on a children’s hospital after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called an emergency meeting in response to the attacks.

In a post on X, the Ukrainian leader said the exact number of hospital casualties was still unknown and that “there are people under the rubble” but that everyone from doctors to local residents were helping to clear the debris after the strike.

“Apartment buildings, infrastructure, children’s hospital were damaged. All services are involved in rescuing as many people as possible,” Zelensky wrote in a post on X.

Ukraine shot down 30 of the 38 missiles launched by Russia during Monday’s attack, the commander of Ukraine’s air force said in a statement.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov appealed for more air defense systems to support the war-torn country. Zelensky has repeatedly called on the West to provide more air defense systems to better protect its cities. Last month, after the two presidents signed a defense pact, he praised Biden for prioritizing the provision of air defense systems. between their countries.

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Air raid sirens continued to wail over Kyiv, and CNN video showed evacuees outside hospitals pushing children on stretchers to safety in shelters. Scores of volunteers then dropped off much-needed supplies and donations — including water, food, medicine and diapers — to the hospital.

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Ukraine’s attorney general on Monday sent evidence of the Russian attacks to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

While several European countries condemned the shelling, France insisted that the attack “must be added to the list of war crimes that Russia will take into account”. Keir Starmer, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, described the hospital strike on innocent children as a “very bad thing”. The UN children’s agency’s top official, executive director Catherine Russell, said the disaster at the medical facility was “another brutal reminder that nowhere is safe for children in Ukraine.”

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,600 heavy weapons attacks have hit medical facilities since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with 141 people killed in these attacks.

Last December, 12 pregnant women and four newborn babies had a lucky escape from a maternity hospital in Dnipro that was heavily damaged in an airstrike. Earlier, the blast a Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Mariupol Within a month, Russian troops flooded the border, prompting international condemnation.

“This is a very difficult day in our town. Today was one of the largest and most massive missile attacks on our hometown,” Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, told CNN’s Becky Anderson.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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