Ukraine maternity hospital: when was Mariupol Hospital bombed, how many died, and was it a war crime?

At least three people were killed - including a child - in the attack, Ukrainian officials said

Russia claimed on Wednesday (9 March) it would let thousands of civilians flee Mariupol and other besieged cities in Ukraine.

While 35,000 civilians managed to escape from these cities through humanitarian corridors, it had been hoped that 100,000 would be able to flee.

However, shelling reportedly continued in Kharkiv and Mariupol - where the city’s children’s hospital and maternity ward was hit by a Russian air strike.

At least three people were killed - including a child - in the attack, Ukrainian officials said.

In a televised address later on Wednesday, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of genocide and called the attack a “war crime”.

What happened?

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A Russian air strike purportedly hit the hospital on Wednesday, blowing out windows and ripping away much of the front of one building.

At least three people were killed - including a child - in a Russian air strike on a children’s hospital and maternity ward in Mariupol (Mariupol City Council)

Mr Zelensky shared footage on Twitter from the scene, which appeared to show several damaged rooms along a corridor in a building that had blown-out windows.

“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,” Mr Zelensky said.

The Mariupol city council said the strike had caused "colossal damage" and published footage showing destroyed cars and a huge crater outside the hospital.

Officials said the hospital was hit “several times” by high-explosive Russian bombs - one of which missed the building by yards and left a crater two-stories deep.

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Many of the pregnant women at the hospital were hiding in the basement at the time of the strike on the orders of hospital authorities.

The Kremlin said on Thursday (10 March) it would seek information from the Russian military about what had happened.

How many died?

Three people including a child were killed.

Some 17 people were also injured, including staff and patients, local officials said - many were likely saved due to hiding in the basement at the time.

The deputy head of Mr Zelensky’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said authorities are trying to establish the number of victims.

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Ukrainian MP Dmitry Gurin told the BBC: “There are a lot of dead and wounded women.

“We don’t know about children or newborns yet.”

The head of the Ukrainian Red Cross said the strike will likely cause a complete collapse of paediatric care in Mariupol, as much of the hospital’s equipment and care wards were reduced to ashes.

Is it a war crime?

Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official said: “Russia committed a huge crime. It is a war crime without any justification.”

UK defence minister James Heappey said Western countries would ensure that evidence is gathered to prove that the atrocity broke international law.

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The minister said: “What Putin is doing is not a war waged between two militaries.

“Right now, he has besieged a number of Ukrainian cities and has waged a war against Ukrainian civilians.”

What did the Ukrainian President say?

Mr Zelensky released a video statement from the presidential palace in Kyiv in which he said the hospital strike “is the ultimate proof that what is happening is the genocide of Ukrainians”.

He said: “Europeans, you can’t say you didn’t see what is happening.

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“You have to tighten the sanctions until Russia can’t continue their savage war”.

He added: “What kind of country bombs hospitals? Is afraid of hospitals? Of a maternity ward?

“Was someone insulting Russians? Were pregnant women shooting in direction of Rostov? Was it the ‘denazification’ of a hospital? What the Russians did at Mariupol was beyond savagery.”

How has the UK Government responded?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the strike as “depraved” and vowed to step up support to the Ukrainian military.

He said: “There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless.

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“The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against airstrikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes.”

Speaking in Washington, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss described the hospital attack as “absolutely abhorrent”, but continued to reject Ukraine’s request for a no-fly zone to be imposed over its skies.

She said: “The best way we can protect the skies is through anti-air weaponry which the UK is now going to be supplying to Ukraine.

“Of course the attack on the hospital is absolutely abhorrent, reckless and appalling.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that “in response to a Ukrainian request” the Government was exploring the donation of Starstreak high-velocity, portable anti-air missiles.

Support people fleeing the devastating conflict in Ukraine: donate to the DEC appeal

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Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) charities and their local partners are in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries providing food, water, shelter and medical assistance. Learn more and donate what you can today

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