A Russian airstrike devastated a maternity hospital on Wednesday in the besieged port city of Mariupol amid growing warnings from the West that Moscow’s invasion is about to take a more brutal and indiscriminate turn. Ukrainian officials said at least 17 people were wounded in the attack.
he ground shook more than a mile away when the Mariupol complex was hit by a series of blasts that blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one building. Police and soldiers rushed to scene to evacuate victims, carrying out a heavily pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher.
Another woman wailed as she clutched her child. In the courtyard, mangled cars burned, and a blast crater extended at least two stories deep.
“Today Russia committed a huge crime,” said Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, standing in the ruins. “It is a war crime without any justification.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter that there were “people, children under the wreckage” and called the strike an “atrocity.” Video shared by Zelensky showed cheerfully painted hallways strewn with twisted metal.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin condemned the attack.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “With multiple reports of a missile strike destroying maternity & children’s hospital in Mariupol, despite ceasefire agreement, the indiscriminate cruelty of (Vladimir) Putin’s invasion is crystal clear.”
“This war on civilians must end,” he tweeted.
“There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenseless,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held “to account for his terrible crimes.”
Authorities, meanwhile, announced new ceasefires on Wednesday morning to allow thousands of civilians to escape bombarded towns around Kyiv as well as the cities of Mariupol, Enerhodar and Volnovakha in the south, Izyum in the east and Sumy in the northeast.
It was not immediately clear whether anyone was able to leave other cities, but people streamed out of Kyiv’s suburbs, many headed for the city center, as explosions were heard in the capital and air raid sirens sounded repeatedly.
From there, the evacuees planned to board trains bound for western Ukrainian regions not under attack.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked by Reuters for comment, said: “Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets.”
Ukraine‘s Foreign Ministry posted footage of what it said was the hospital showing blasted-out windows and piles of smouldering rubble.
The Donetsk region’s governor said 17 people were wounded, including women in labour. The United Nations human rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was verifying the number of casualites, a U.N. spokesperson in Geneva said.
Earlier Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had broken the ceasefire around the southern port, which lies between Russian-backed separatist areas of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014.
“Russia continues holding hostage over 400,000 people in Mariupol, blocks humanitarian aid and evacuation. Indiscriminate shelling continues,” he wrote on Twitter. “Almost 3,000 newborn babies lack medicine and food.”
Local officials in other cities said some civilians had left on Wednesday through safe corridors, including out of Sumy in eastern Ukraine and Enerhodar in the south.
However, Russian forces were preventing a convoy of 50 buses from evacuating civilians from the town of Bucha outside Kyiv, local authorities said in an online post, adding that talks continued to allow the convoy to leave.
Both sides have accused each other of violating ceasefires that would allow to evacuate Mariupol, which Russian forces have kept under siege for more than a week.
On Tuesday, the Red Cross called conditions inside the city “apocalyptic”, with residents sheltering underground from relentless bombardment, with no access to food, water, power or heat.
Meanwhile, radioactive substances could be released from Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant because it cannot cool spent nuclear fuel after its power connection was severed, Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom said on Wednesday.
Work to repair the connection and restore power to the plant, which has been occupied by Russian troops, has not been possible because fighting is under way, it said.
Meanwhile, an air alert was declared in and around Kyiv in the early hours of this morning, where residents in Ukraine’s besieged capital city were urged to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible.
“Kyiv region – air alert. Threat of a missile attack. Everyone immediately to shelters,” regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.
Nearly two weeks into the invasion, Russian troops have advanced deep along Ukraine’s coastline.
The city of Mariupol, which sits on the Azov Sea, has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for days and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the encircled city of 430,000.
For days, as Moscow’s forces have laid siege to Ukrainian cities.
Attempts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians have stumbled amid continuing fighting.
Across the country, thousands of people are thought to have been killed, both civilians and soldiers, in nearly two weeks of fighting. Russian forces have seen their advances stopped in certain areas – including around Kyiv, the capital – by fiercer resistance than expected from the Ukrainians.
Buses have carried civilians out of an embattled Ukrainian city along a safe corridor agreed by the warring sides, but a parallel effort to relieve the besieged port of Mariupol was thrown into jeopardy by reports of renewed Russian shelling.
UN officials report that two million people have now fled Ukraine.
On Tuesday, a convoy of buses packed with people fleeing the fighting moved along a snowy road from Sumy, a north-eastern city of 250,000 people, according to video from the Ukrainian communications agency.
Deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said they were heading south west to the city of Poltava, and included students from India and China.
Hours before the convoy reached Sumy, overnight strikes killed 21 people there, including two children, Ukrainian authorities said.
Meanwhile, buses emblazoned with red cross symbols carried water, medicine and food towards the encircled southern port of Mariupol, scene of some of the worst desperation.
Ms Vereshchuk said the vehicles would ferry civilians out of the city of 430,000 people, but soon after officials announced the buses were on their way, Ukrainian authorities said they had learned of shelling on the escape route.
It was unclear whether the supply convoy made it to Mariupol, and it appeared unlikely that civilians would be able to board the buses to get out.
The deputy mayor of Mariupol cast doubt on the evacuations, telling the BBC that Russian forces continued to pound areas where people were trying to gather ahead of being taken out. He said some roads were blocked, while others were mined.
“So we cannot establish sustainable ceasefire and safety route at the moment,” Serhiy Orlov said. “So we still have… a city in blockade.”
The city is without water, heat, working sewage systems or phone service. Residents have been getting water from streams or by melting snow.
Corpses lay in the streets and authorities planned to start digging mass graves.
With the electricity out, many people are relying on car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.
The fighting has caused global economic turmoil, with energy prices surging worldwide and stocks plummeting. It also threatens the food supply of millions around the globe who rely on crops farmed in the Black Sea region.
Meanwhile, seven thousand offers of accommodation for Ukrainian refugees have been received by the Irish Red Cross, the Government said today, with 2,500 now arrived in Ireland.
Rachael Diyaolu’s family has confirmed that she has restarted her journey to the Ukrainian border and the 19-year-old hopes to cross into the EU later today.
The Carlow medical student left the university city Sumy with several others on Monday and has encountered numerous obstacles on her journey out of the war-torn country.
Ms Diyaolu was rescued along with her Nigerian friends Roycee Iloielunachi and Anolajuwon Solarin, by two Scottish gardeners who drove them out of the city.
Joe McCarthy (55) and Gary Taylor (45), who run Ready2Rock landscaping in Falkirk, volunteered to get the students out of Sumy and have been posting video updates on their TikTok page.
A video posted yesterday showed the damage caused to Mr McCarthy’s vehicle when it was targeted and shot at by Russian soldiers and a bullet went straight through the rim of one of the wheels.
Yesterday Rachael Diyaolu told Independent.ie that they were still trying to find a safe border crossing because a crossing point they had previously identified in Moldova was closed.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Ms Diyaolu’s sister Christiana said Rachael texted her family earlier to let them know “they’re on their way”.
“I do believe that they’re making good progress,” she said.
“It’s been a long three days and we’re nearly at the end now. It’s just the final stretch and hopefully she’ll be past the border and back home to us soon.
“Some of the roads in Ukraine are not the smoothest, so they’ve experienced a lot of problems with their car, but it seems to be good today and hopefully the journey will be smooth, and they’ll make their way.”
The convoy carrying Rachael Diyaolu and others was slowed down by a number of Russian and Ukrainian checkpoints.
Christiana said the Ukrainian police have issued the group an official letter which she hopes can speed up the process.
“I believe the Ukrainian police have given them some kind of letter that will allow them to pass through checkpoints a lot easier which is amazing. Hopefully by the end of today that will have made the border.”
It has been a nervous fortnight for the entire Diyaolu family since the Russian invasion began, but Christiana said recent days have been easier.
“It was a lot worse last week and towards the beginning of the invasion but now that we know she’s on her way to safety… I’ve been able to sleep a lot better and a lot longer.
“Until she gets back, I don’t think I’ll have a proper full night’s sleep.”
She added that the family hopes once Racheal reaches the EU the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs can arrange transport “to help bring her home”.
Western countries have rushed weapons to Ukraine and moved to slap Vladimir Putin’s Russia with sanctions.
In a further effort to punish Russia, US President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports, and Shell announced it will stop buying oil and gas from Russia.
Ukraine’s military said its forces continued defence operations in the Mariupol suburbs.
The military said “demoralised” Russian forces were looting, commandeering civilian buildings and setting up firing positions in populated areas.
The battle for Mariupol is crucial because its capture could allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Late on Tuesday, Mr Zelensky released a video showing him standing near the presidential offices in Kyiv. Behind him were piles of sandbags, a snow-dusted tree and a few cars.
It was the second video in 24 hours showing him near the country’s seat of power, apparently made to dispel any doubts about whether he had fled the city.
https://www.independent.ie/news/babies-and-pregnant-women-feared-buried-under-rubble-as-russia-shells-mariupol-maternity-hospital-in-latest-atrocity-against-civilians-by-putins-forces-41426541.html Babies and pregnant women feared buried under rubble as Russia shells Mariupol maternity hospital in latest atrocity against civilians in Ukraine