Europe

An airstrike hits a maternity hospital in Ukraine, injuring 17 people.

A maternity facility in the besieged port city of Mariupol was destroyed by a Russian bomb on Wednesday, amid rising warnings from the West that Moscow’s invasion is poised to take a more cruel and indiscriminate turn. According to Ukrainian officials, at least 17 persons were injured in the attack.

The Mariupol complex was hit by a succession of blasts that blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one structure, causing the ground to tremble more than a mile distant.

As light snow fell on burning and damaged automobiles and trees smashed by the blast, police and military hurried to the scene to evacuate victims, carrying a heavily pregnant and wounded woman on a stretcher.

Another mother sobbed as she hugged her child in her arms. A explosive hole in the courtyard was at least two floors deep.

Standing in the ruins, Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, said, “Today Russia committed a huge crime.” “There is no justification for this war crime.”

Bombs exploded in two hospitals in Zhytomyr, a city of 260,000 people west of Kyiv, one of which being a children’s hospital, according to Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn on Facebook. He claimed that no one was hurt.

The Mariupol strike, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, trapped children and others beneath the wreckage.

“It’s a children’s hospital,” says the narrator. A maternity facility. What threat did they pose to the Russian Federation?” In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy inquired, switching to Russian to convey his dismay at the airstrike. “What kind of country is this, Russia, that is scared of hospitals, especially maternity facilities, and destroys them?”

He asked the West to implement even harder sanctions so that Russia “can no longer carry out this slaughter.”

Zelenskyy tweeted a video of brightly painted hallways scattered with twisted metal.

“There are few things more despicable than preying on the helpless and vulnerable,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be called “to account for his heinous crimes.”

Since the violence began, the World Health Organization has recorded 18 attacks on health institutions and ambulances, killing ten people. It was unclear whether the assault on the maternity facility was included in that figure.

In a phone discussion with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken criticized Russia’s “unconscionable attacks,” according to the State Department.

Russia’s military is struggling more than expected two weeks into its assault on Ukraine, but Putin’s invading force of more than 150,000 men retains potentially insurmountable firepower as it closes in on major cities.

With the exception of Russian progress on the towns of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, American military officials reported little change on the ground during the preceding 24 hours, despite intensive shelling on civilian areas. Officials talked on the condition of anonymity in order to assess the overall military situation.

Authorities have declared additional cease-fires to allow tens of thousands of residents to flee bombed cities. Three humanitarian routes functioned on Wednesday, according to Zelenskyy, from Sumy in the northeast near the Russian border, Kyiv suburbs, and Enerhodar in the south, where Russian soldiers gained control of a massive nuclear plant.

He estimated that roughly 35,000 individuals were able to escape. On Thursday, more evacuations are expected.

People poured out of Kyiv’s outskirts, many heading for the city center, as the capital was rocked by explosions and air raid sirens. The evacuees planned to board trains destined for western Ukraine regions that were not under attack from there.

Because the Ukrainians blew up the concrete span leading to Kyiv days earlier to delay the Russian advance, civilians evacuating the Kyiv suburb of Irpin were forced to cross the slick wooden boards of a temporary bridge.

Firefighters pulled an elderly man to safety in a wheelbarrow, a youngster held the hand of a helping soldier, and a woman inched her way ahead, carrying a fluffy kitten inside her winter coat, while occasional gunfire echoed behind them.

They walked past a smashed van with the words “Our Ukraine” scrawled on its windows in dust.

“At the moment, we only have a small window of opportunity,” said Yevhen Nyshchuk, a member of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces. “Even if there is a cease-fire in place right now, shells could fall at any time.”

Attempts to build safe evacuation channels in recent days have mainly failed due to what Ukraine claims are Russian attacks. In a phone conversation with Germany’s chancellor, Putin, though, accused hardline Ukrainian nationalists of impeding the evacuations.

Local authorities rushed to bury the dead from the past two weeks of war in a mass grave in Mariupol, a vital city of 430,000 inhabitants on the Sea of Azov. At one of the city’s old cemeteries, workmen excavated a ditch about 25 meters (yards) long and made the sign of the cross as they pushed bodies covered in carpets or sacks over the edge.

According to Zelenskyy’s office, almost 1,200 people died during the city’s nine-day siege.

Since Putin’s forces entered, tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers are believed to have died. According to the United Nations, more than 2 million people have fled the country, the largest refugee exodus in Europe since World War II ended.

Fighting knocked out power to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, raising concerns about the spent radioactive fuel that must be kept cool at the site. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency, however, said the loss of power had “no critical impact on safety.”

The crisis is likely to worsen as Moscow’s forces increase their city-bombing campaign in response to what appears to be stronger Ukrainian resistance and greater Russian losses than expected.

As Putin tries to regain momentum, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace claimed Russia’s assault will become “more violent and indiscriminate,” echoing statements made by the CIA director a day earlier.

The Biden administration cautioned that Russia would try to deploy chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, dismissing Russian allegations that the country it invaded was developing illegal chemical weapons.

Without providing evidence, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukraine of running chemical and biological weapons facilities with US help this week. The accusation, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, is “preposterous,” and it could be part of a Russian attempt to build the framework for its own use of such weapons against Ukraine.

Fighting has continuing northwest of Kyiv, according to the British Defense Ministry. Russian forces ringed Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Mariupol, which were extensively shelled.

Russian forces are placing military equipment on farms and amid residential buildings in the northern city of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s military said. In the south, Russians in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv, a Black Sea shipbuilding center of a half-million people, it said.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is bolstering fortifications in cities around the country, including in the north, south, and east, while soldiers around Kyiv are “holding the line” against the Russian advance, according to officials.

Some of Ukraine’s volunteer fighters practiced with rocket-propelled grenade launchers in a Kyiv park on Wednesday.

“I only have one son,” Mykola Matulevskiy, 64, a retired martial arts instructor who was with his son, Kostyantin, remarked. “It’s all my son’s fault.”

But now they’ll battle together: “We can’t have it any other way because it’s our motherland.” First and foremost, we must defend our nation.”

Police officers and soldiers in Irpin, a 60,000-person town, assisted elderly inhabitants in leaving their homes. On a makeshift stretcher, one victim was carried out of a destroyed structure, while another was pushed toward Kyiv in a shopping cart. Residents who were fleeing reported they had been without power and water for four days.

The crisis for civilians is worsening in and around Kyiv, according to regional administration chief Oleksiy Kuleba, with the situation particularly bad in the suburbs.

The situation is even worse in Mariupol, where efforts to evacuate residents and deliver badly needed food, water and medicine failed Tuesday because of what the Ukrainians said were continued Russian attacks.

The city took advantage of a lull in the shelling Wednesday to hurriedly bury 70 people. Some were soldiers, but most were civilians.

The work was conducted efficiently and without ceremony. No mourners were present, no families to say their goodbyes.

One woman stood at the gates of the cemetery to ask whether her mother was among those being buried. She was.

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