Ukraine accuses Russia of genocide after bombing a children’s hospital

  • The city council said the hospital was hit by several Russian bombs
  • Russian FM arrives in Turkey for talks
  • Russia earlier agreed to a ceasefire in exchange for the evacuation
  • Moscow denies targeting civilians

Lviv, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine’s president accused Russia of genocide after officials said Russian planes bombed a children’s hospital on Wednesday, burying patients under rubble despite a ceasefire deal as people fled the besieged city of Mariupol.

The attack, which authorities said injured women in labor and left babies in the rubble, is the latest horrific incident of the 14-day invasion, the biggest attack on a European country since 1945.

Mariupol’s city council said the hospital had been bombed several times in what the White House described as a “barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians.”

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The destruction occurred despite a Russian pledge of a ceasefire so that at least some of the trapped civilians could escape the city, where hundreds of thousands have taken shelter without water or electricity for more than a week.

“Which country is this Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, is afraid of maternity hospitals and destroys them?” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late Wednesday night.

Zelensky repeated his call for the West to tighten sanctions on Russia “so that they sit at the negotiating table and end this brutal war.” He said the bombing of the children’s hospital was “evidence of a genocide of Ukrainians”.

“Russian forces do not shoot at civilian targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters when asked for comment. Russia describes its incursion as a “special operation” to disarm its neighbor and expel leaders it calls “neo-Nazis”.

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The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry released video footage of what it said was the hospital showing holes where the windows were supposed to be in the three-storey building. Huge piles of smoldering rubble littered the scene.

The UN human rights body said it was checking the number of victims in Mariupol.

“The incident adds to our deep concerns about the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas and civilians caught up in active hostilities in many areas,” said department spokeswoman Liz Throssell.

The governor of the Donetsk region said 17 people were wounded in the attack.

Ukraine has accused Russia of violating the ceasefire around the southern port, which aid workers and officials say ran out of food and water after days of Russian bombing.

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

Satellite imagery company Maxar said images taken earlier in the day showed extensive damage to homes, apartment buildings, grocery stores and shopping malls in the coastal city.

Russia blamed Ukraine for the evacuation failure.

Of the more than two million refugees from Ukraine, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday that more than one million children have fled the country since the invasion began on February 24. At least 37 were killed and 50 wounded. He said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Interfax news agency reported, citing one of Zelensky’s top aides, that about 48 thousand Ukrainians were evacuated through humanitarian corridors.

Ukrainian officials said that while some left from certain locations, Russian forces prevented buses from evacuating civilians from the town of Bucha near Kyiv.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said homes were destroyed throughout Ukraine. “Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, no water, no heating, no electricity, and no medical care,” she added.

Thousands continued to pour into neighboring countries. After hiding in the basement to take cover from Russian bombing, Irina Mihalinka told Reuters in Isakia, Romania, she left her home northeast of the Black Sea port of Odessa.

“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 bodies of Russian (soldiers) lying there,” she said.

Russia’s economic isolation

Russia has been subjected to Western sanctions and the withdrawal of foreign companies. Nestle, cigarette maker Philip Morris and Sony on Wednesday joined the list of multinational companies that have pulled out of the country.

A senior Biden administration official said Wednesday that the United States is considering imposing sanctions against the nuclear power company Rosatom.

The World Bank’s chief economist said Moscow is close to defaulting on its debt. The Kremlin is taking measures to support the economy and is planning to respond to the US ban on its oil and energy exports as the ruble plunged to record lows.

There was not much hope in diplomacy as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Turkey ahead of Thursday’s talks with Kuleba in what would be the two’s first meeting since the incursion.

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Kuleba said Ukraine is seeking a ceasefire, the liberation of its territory and the resolution of all humanitarian issues, adding: “Frankly… my expectations from the talks are low.”

Moscow demands Kyiv take a neutral stance and abandon its aspirations to join NATO.

Zelensky told VICE in an interview on Wednesday that he was confident that at some point Putin would agree to the talks. “I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong. He will. We need some time,” he said.

The West says that Russia is inventing pretexts to justify an unjustified war. Russian President Vladimir Putin described Ukraine as an American colony with a puppet regime and no tradition of independent statehood.

The White House said on Wednesday that Russia’s allegations about alleged US involvement in biological weapons laboratories and the development of chemical weapons in Ukraine are false.

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 quickly adjust its plan to topple the government.

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday approved $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine to help meet urgent spending needs.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Costas Pettas and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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