Ukraine: Maternity hospital bombed in Mariupol
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Bloodied expectant mothers were stretchered away by rescuers and Ukraine’s president labelled the Mariupol attack “an atrocity”. Volodymyr Zelensky again urged the West to impose a no-fly zone, saying: “How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?” As Russian military chiefs admitted using “body-vaporising” thermobaric rockets, he warned “we will lose millions of people” if Putin’s invasion continued much longer.
At least 17 people were wounded in the direct hit on the strategic southern port hospital. Survivors picked their way past charred tree stumps, a 20ft bomb crater
and the burning debris of wrecked cars.Where there had been rows of ward windows was now just gaping, blasted holes.
President Zelensky, addressing Western allies, wrote online: “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.”
Speaking to Sky News’ Alex Crawford in his office in the capital Kyiv on Day 14 of the invasion, he said: “Don’t wait for me ask you several times, a million times. Close the sky and stop the bombing.”
Asked about Western fears that a no-fly zone would trigger even worse Russian aggression, he said: “Worse for whom? For our families? Who knows? But we know that exactly that now is very bad. And in future it will be too late.
“Believe me, if it’s prolonged this way, you will see… they will close the sky but we will lose millions of people. The Third World War will start and only then you will make a no-fly zone – but it will be too late.”
President Zelensky said of the Russians’ siege of Mariupol: “They want us to feel like animals. The biggest cities in Ukraine and they blocked [them] and because they don’t want our people to get some food, water.”
Boris Johnson declared yesterday: “There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless.”
The Prime Minister added: “The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against airstrikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes.”
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the hospital attack “abhorrent” but downplayed suggestions Nato may enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment for more than a week, with food, water and electricity cut off days ago. The Red Cross said conditions are “apocalyptic”.
Hours before the hospital was hit, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said 3,000 babies lacked food or medicine and begged for a humanitarian evacuatio corridor for them.
The Ukrainians said at least 1,170 civilians have been killed in the besieged city so far since the start of the Russian invasion.
Witnesses have described corpses lying unburied in the streets and hungry residents breaking into stores in search of food and melting snow for water, while thousands sheltered in basements.
There have also been reports of mass graves being dug in Mariupol, as officials are forced to bury people collectively.
Ukrainian authorities also said yesterday 67 children had been killed across the country (NB again since the start of the invasion).
Moscow had promised a ceasefire in the city yesterday so civilians could be evacuated, but failed for the fourth time to keep its word.
Observers have suggested the Russia is now deliberately targeting healthcare buildings in a desperate bid to crush Ukrainian morale and resistance.
The Ukrainian Healthcare Center, a think-tank based in the country, says that between the outbreak of fighting on February 24 and yesterday, their team had documented 42 cases of Russian forces attacking either healthcare facilities or medics in order to deliberately provoke a ‘humanitarian crisis’.
Hospitals had been struck in every theatre where Russian forces were operating, the think-tank said, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv.
“The humanitarian catastrophe is a part of Russia’s hybrid war. [It] intends to spread panic, create a flow of refugees at the borders and force the Ukrainian government to surrender,” said Pavlo Kovtonyuk, co-founder of the think-tank.
The US has seen indications that Russia’s military is using so-called “dumb bombs” that are unguided and greatly increase the risk of missing targets.
“We do have indications that the Russians are in fact dropping some dumb munitions,” a senior U.S. defense
official speaking on condition of anonymity, said adding that the US was observing “increasing damage to civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties.”
It is feared that a dumb bomb could have been the cause of the devastation at the Mariupol children’s hospital.
Meanwhile, one Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Putin could also begin using chemical weapons, saying: “I think we’ve got good reason to be concerned about possible use of non-conventional weapons, partly because of what we’ve seen has happened in other theatres.
“As I’ve mentioned before, for example, what we’ve seen in Syria, partly because we’ve seen a bit of setting the scene for that in the false flag claims that are coming out, and other indications as well. So it’s a serious concern for us.”
Russia announced a new ceasefire yesterday (Wednesday) to let civilians flee besieged cities – but there were only limited signs of progress.
Photographs showed terrified babies being carried across bombed-out wasteland prior to crossing Irpin River by soldiers and police in a stark illustration of the desperate situation many Ukrainians are facing.
Dmytro Zhyvytsky, governor of the eastern city of Sumy, said civilian cars were leaving for a second day through a safe corridor set up to Poltava, further west, with the BBC claiming 7,000 people had managed to get out.
But as of midday yesterday, there was no confirmation that any of the other evacuation corridors had been successfully opened.
Elsewhere, Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said supplies would be allowed in and buses would take residents out on the way back.
Kyiv said 30 buses and eight trucks of supplies failed to reach it on Tuesday after they came under Russian shelling in violation of the ceasefire. Moscow has blamed Kyiv for failing to stop fighting.
Separately, the beleaguered invading Russian army, already struggling in the face of staunch resistance from the Ukrainian people, is facing another fearsome adversary – the weather.
With temperatures set to plunge to lows of between -10 and -20 degrees centigrade, Putin has been warned life is about to become even more miserable for Russian soldiers already struggling with poor morale, faulty equipment, and poor logistics.
The Met Office has warned the needle is likely to plunge below zero in the next few days, which means, adding in the wind-chill factor, they will hit dangerously low levels, with multiple pictures showing Russian tanks ploughing through the snow hinting at worsening conditions.
Russian troops were ordered into Ukraine on February 24, but any hopes of a swift victory were rapidly dispelled.
On Tuesday the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed 303 tanks, 1,036 armoured personnel vehicles, 80 helicopters, 48 aircraft, 120 artillery systems, 60 fuel tanks, three ships and boats, as well as killing 12,000 personnel.
Additionally, a Jane’s Group map highlighted Ukrainian claims to have destroyed 30 Russian attack helicopters, and at least three Su-34 bombers.
Henry Wilkinson, chief intelligence officer with Dragonfly Intelligence, said: ”If you look at this enormous column north of Kyiv, these trucks are stalled. There are reports that Russian soldiers have abandoned their vehicles and a lot of them are camping in woods nearby.
“There are reports that they’re short on supplies and have been going into supermarkets and raiding food. I think it’s going to be extremely difficult and there are also questions about how they’re being resupplied or if they’re being rotated.”
Mr Wilkinson added: “My understanding, through their own internal communication channels, is that they are sustaining losses and aren’t even clear what they’re there to do. They’re pretty demoralised as it is and the cold weather will be extremely difficult.
“And they’re up against a very highly motivated enemy that is fighting for the survival of their country and their state.”
Russia admits using ‘body-vaporising’ bombs
Putin’s forces have confirmed the use of thermobaric weapons in Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said.
It tweeted: “The Russian MoD has confirmed the use of the TOS-1A weapon system in Ukraine. The TOS-1A uses thermobaric rockets, creating incendiary and blast effects.”
Thermobaric weapons are also called vacuum bombs because after the initial explosion, a low-pressure zone sucks oxygen back towards the blast site from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion up to 3,000 kelvins (4,940F).
Delivered by rocket or missile, they contain multiple submunitions which open mid-air and explode on impact.
Hundreds can be delivered in one go.
They can cause lung embolisms in humans and even vaporise entire bodies if they are too close to the bomb site.
In a city the bombs can cause huge death rates and massive destruction.
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