A Russian airstrike has reportedly destroyed a maternity ward and children’s hospital in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
As The New York Times reports:
The videos from the hospital showed several wounded people being evacuated. Seventeen people were injured, including staff members and maternity ward patients, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional governor, said in an interview with a Ukrainian television station.
The extent of the casualties was not immediately clear. It was also not clear whether the hospital was fully operating at the time of the strike or had been evacuated to some degree. The strike was another apparent instance of Russia’s siege tactics hitting civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian cities, leading to what officials have called a humanitarian crisis in Mariupol.
For days, heavy Russian bombardment has cut residents off from power, water and heat in Mariupol, a strategic port city. The city is part of a vital stretch of terrain that Russia is trying to capture in an apparent attempt to link Russian-backed separatist enclaves in the southeast with Crimea, the southern peninsula Russia seized in 2014.
The Ukrainian government blamed Russia for the hospital strike, and witnesses and a local news outlet claimed that it had been caused by bombs dropped by Russian warplanes.
For the past 12 days, Russian units have besieged the port city. Before today’s strike, the mayor estimated that 1,200 civilians had died in the city of 400,000.
A demilitarized corridor set up to evacuate civilians and agreed to by Ukraine and Russia quickly came under Russian artillery fire. Even before today’s strike, a crisis not seen in Mariupol since World War II had erupted in the city. Without power, water, heat and basic sanitation, its residents are beginning to succumb to the elements, as well as Russian shrapnel.