A Russian airstrike devastated a maternity in the besieged port of Mariupol and injured at least 17 people, Ukrainian officials said, prompting international condemnation from Washington, London and the Vatican, among others.
The bombing of the hospital came as humanitarian corridors set up to allow civilians to flee several besieged towns around Ukraine failed to materialize on the scale expected due to continued fighting, leaving hundreds of thousands of people trapped without basic supplies due to the unprovoked invasion of Moscow.
The Mariupol City Council announced a Russian attack on the hospital on March 9 caused “colossal” damage, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter that there were “people, children under the rubble” of the hospital. He called the strike an “atrocity” as authorities try to establish how many people were killed or injured.
“The children are under the wreckage. This is an atrocity! How much longer will the world be complicit in ignoring the terror? Shut up the skies now! Stop the killings! You have the power but seem to be losing power! ‘humanity,’ Zelenskiy wrote referring to his calls for NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The ground shook more than two kilometers as the Mariupol complex was hit by a series of explosions that blew out windows and tore off much of a building’s facade, AP news agency reported.
Police and soldiers rushed to the scene to evacuate the victims, carrying a heavily pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher.
Another woman groaned as she hugged her child. In the yard, mangled cars burned and a blast crater stretched at least two stories deep.
“Today Russia has committed a huge crime,” said Volodymyr Nikulin, a senior regional police official, standing in the wreckage. “It’s a war crime without any justification.”
The White House has condemned the “barbaric” use of force against civilians.
“It is horrifying to see the type of barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters when asked about the attack.
“There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and helpless,” said the British Prime Minister. Boris Johnson tweetedadding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held “to account for his terrible crimes”.
The Vatican Secretary of State called the attack “unacceptable”.
“I say that bombing a hospital is unacceptable. There is no reason, there is no motivation to do this,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin told reporters who questioned him at a conference in Rome. on the Russian bombings.
The attack came on a day when Russia said its forces would “observe a regime of silence” from 10 a.m. Moscow time on March 9 to ensure safe passage for civilians wishing to leave Kyiv. Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and the Black Sea port of Mariupol, which the Red Cross says is facing “apocalyptic” conditions.
But by late afternoon authorities reported mixed results in evacuating people from combat zones, with only safe corridors between the eastern city of Sumy and the southern city of Enerhodar, the location of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe which Russian forces seized last week. , pending confirmation.
Russian forces also reportedly prevented a convoy of 50 buses from evacuating civilians from the town of Bucha just outside Kiev, local authorities said, adding that talks were continuing to allow the convoy to leave.
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“Russia continues to hold more than 400,000 people hostage in Mariupol, blocks humanitarian aid and evacuation. Indiscriminate shelling continues,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. wrote on Twitter. “Nearly 3,000 newborn babies lack medicine and food.”
In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “absurd” Russia’s insistence that Ukrainians be evacuated through humanitarian corridors leading to Russia.
“It is offensive to suggest that the people of Ukraine should seek refuge with the very government that has shown such disregard for their lives,” Blinken told reporters after a meeting with Britain’s business secretary. Liz Truss, who addressed the issue of NATO’s establishment of a flight ban. area above Ukraine, as requested by Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials.
“The reality is that creating a no-fly zone would lead to a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. And that’s not what we envision,” Truss told reporters when told. asked if an area could be entered through a humanitarian corridor.
“What we seek to do is ensure that Ukrainians are able to defend their own country with the best possible selection of anti-tank weapons and air defense systems.”
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published on March 9 new figures on civilian casualties. He said that since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, 516 people have been killed and 908 injured.
It was quick to add a declaration that the agency “believes the actual numbers to be considerably higher, particularly in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have taken place has been delayed and many reports are still awaiting substantiation.”
Sixty-seven children have died since the start of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian officials said on March 9.
The number of people who have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion continues to rise, with the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimating on March 9 that the figure has now reached some 2 .2 million people.
During a visit to Stockholm, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, told a press conference that “the time has come to try to help at the border”, rather than to discuss the distribution of refugees between countries.
Early on March 9, as Russian missile and artillery attacks intensified as the war dragged on into its 14th day, Zelenskiy reiterated its call for a no-fly zone to protect Ukraine, saying that otherwise the international community would be responsible for a mass humanitarian catastrophe.
But many NATO countries, as well as other Western allies, have only provided Kiev with defensive weapons amid threats from Moscow that any aggression against Russian ground or air forces would make donors a direct party. to the conflict and therefore open to reprisals.
On the diplomatic front, the European Union continued to tighten sanctions against those “involved in Russian aggression in Ukraine”, agreeing on new measures targeting 14 other oligarchs, 146 members of the upper house of the Russian parliament and their families.
The new sanctions also target the maritime sector and will exclude three Belarusian banks from the SWIFT financial payment messaging system, while also clarifying the issue of cryptocurrencies and giving a complete list of technologies and goods that cannot be sold between Russia and the bloc.
“We are further tightening the sanctions net in response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a tweet.
Earlier today Britain, which is not an EU member, unveiled new aviation sanctions under which any Russian aircraft can be detained while exports of aircraft or space goods to Russia can also be prohibited.
US Vice President Kamala Harris begins a tour of two European NATO allies, Poland and Romania, on March 9 to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact of the war on the region. , while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov travels to Turkey, where he will meet Kuleba, on March 10.
Poland has publicly stated that it is willing to transfer its Russian-made MiG fighter jets to a US military base in Germany to allow the aircraft to be handed over to Ukraine. But the Pentagon quickly dismissed the idea as unsustainable because warplanes flying from a US and NATO base in disputed airspace with Russia would increase the risk of the war spreading beyond Russia. ‘Ukraine.