Ukrainian officials accused Russia of destroying a maternity and children’s hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, even after both sides had agreed to a tentative ceasefire to allow civilians to escape.
Victims, including children, were trapped beneath the wreckage, Ukrainian authorities claimed. Photos taken in the aftermath of the bombing showed rescue workers evacuating pregnant women covered in dust.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy branded the attack an “atrocity” and reiterated his call for world leaders to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Mariupol. 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. pic.twitter.com/FoaNdbKH5k
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 9, 2022
Over the last week, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered a more vicious phase as Russian armed forces began to bomb civilian areas in major cities. Mariupol, a strategically and symbolically significant city on the Sea of Azov, has been encircled by Russian forces for days. According to Deputy Mayor Sergiy Orlov, the incessant shelling has killed at least 1,170 people.
The Mariupol city council has accused Russia of attempting to create a humanitarian crisis by deliberately bombing civilian infrastructure in the city to shut off heat, water, electricity, and transportation. Ukrainian officials have also accused Russian forces of attacking a convoy attempting to evacuate civilians and deliver food, water, and medicine through an agreed-upon safe corridor.
The Mariupol hospital wasn’t the first medical facility that Russian armed forces have bombed during the invasion. On February 24, a cluster munition landed just outside a hospital in Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast, killing 4 civilians and injuring 10, according to Human Rights Watch.
Russia has also destroyed hospitals in previous armed conflicts. In 1999, the bombing of a maternity hospital in Chechnya killed at least 27 people, predominantly infants and mothers. Russia’s targeting of medical facilities reached new extremes during the Syrian civil war. By 2017, Syria, with Russia’s help, had attacked more than 300 medical facilities, killing almost 800 medical personnel.