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Ukrainian children’s hospital attacked as Russian strikes on cities kill at least 31

A Russian missile strike partially destroyed a children’s hospital in Kyiv on Monday, causing terrified patients and their families to flee for their lives, as officials fear more people could be trapped beneath the rubble.

Moscow launched a brazen daytime aerial assault on targets in cities across Ukraine during morning rush hour, killing at least 31 people and injuring 125 others, according to Ukraine’s emergency service.

In an update on Telegram, the emergency service said the latest figure included the number of dead and injured in the capital, which now stands at 20 people dead and 61 others hurt. Two people were killed and at least 10 were injured in the strike on Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital.

The facility is Ukraine’s largest children’s medical center and has been vital in the care of some the sickest children from across the country. Every year, around 7,000 surgeries – including treatments for cancer and hematological diseases – are conducted at the hospital, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.

Videos from the scene showed volunteers working with police and security services to sift through the rubble as smoke billowed from the hospital, as staff described how they tried to rush children to safety in the wake of the attack. Ukraine’s health minister Viktor Liashko said intensive care units, oncology departments and surgery units had been damaged.

“The key task here is to get people out of the rubble and provide assistance to those we can reach, as we have already taken out all the first ones,” he said in a Telegram post.

The attacks were part of a rare daylight bombardment on Ukrainian cities, some of which are heavily populated areas far from the front lines. It came a day before US President Joe Biden hosts a crucial NATO Summit in Washington, where new announcements over the alliance’s military, political and financial support for Kyiv are expected.

Russia’s defense ministry on Monday claimed that Moscow had struck “military industrial facilities of Ukraine and air bases of the Ukrainian armed forces” using long-range, high-precision weapons.

Eyewitnesses recount hospital strike

Natalia Sardudinova, a senior nurse, described the moment the strike hit the hospital saying that “it was scary, but we survived.”

She said two children had been in the operating theaters at the time of the blast, and both were relocated to the basement shelter once their procedures were completed.

“Everything was in smoke, there was no air to breathe. The doctor was cut by shrapnel. The windows and doors were blown out. One nurse in the hospital was heavily injured,” Sardudinova added. “My hands are still shaking. They don’t let anyone in now, they are afraid it will collapse.”

Yulia Vasylenko, the mother of an 11-year-old cancer patient at the hospital, said her son Denys was evacuated outside following the strike.

“My son is on painkillers. He has cancer. He has been without medication for half a day. He was brought down the stairs from the third floor. There was smoke (and) heavy dust,” she said.

“The lights went out, everything went out. We pulled out the instruments, shining flashlights. Everything was sewn up quickly,” Filimonova said. “The baby was brought down (to the shelter). I immediately ran to help clear the rubble. Some of my nursing colleagues who worked in the operating theaters and some doctors were cut by glass fragments. Our department was destroyed.”

Another operating theater nurse, Oksana Mosiychuk, said they sheltered in the emergency room when the explosion rocked the building. After that, she added, the medical team had to extinguish a blaze that broke out in their department, including an operating table which had caught fire.

“Fortunately, everyone is alive. One of our colleagues was heavily injured, he had numerous cuts and shrapnel wounds, and was taken away by an ambulance. I also have minor shrapnel wounds, but I’m fine. It was very scary. I was scared for the children,” she said.

Zelensky calls for UN action

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy said in a post on X that the exact number of casualties at the hospital was not yet known and that “there are people under the rubble” but that everyone from doctors to local residents are helping clear debris in the strike’s aftermath.

“Apartment buildings, infrastructure, and a children’s hospital have been damaged. All services are engaged to rescue as many people as possible,” Zelensky wrote in a post on X.

The bombardment struck targets in the capital Kyiv as well as in Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

Zelensky later called for a United Nations Security Council meeting, while vowing retaliation over Monday’s strikes.

Ukraine shot down 30 out of 38 missiles launched by Russia during its attack on Monday, the commander of the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement.

Russian forces used ballistic, cruise, guided and air-launched ballistic missiles in the strikes, Mykola Oleshchuk also said.

The Ukrainian security service said a cruise missile was used to attack Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital.

In reaction to Monday’s bombardment, Ukraine’s defense minister Rustem Umerov said the country’s infrastructure was targeted by four dozen Kalibr cruise missiles and Kinzhal aero ballistic missiles, launched from Russia’s Volgograd region.

In a statement, Umerov continued to appeal for more air defense systems to support the war-torn country. Zelensky has repeatedly called on the West to provide it with more air defense systems to better protect its cities. Last month, he praised Biden for prioritizing the delivery of air defense systems after the two presidents signed a security agreement between their nations on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy.

Umerov said Monday that Kyiv was continuing “to work to ensure that the systems promised by our partners arrive in Ukraine as soon as possible.”

Scores of volunteers later dropped off much-needed supplies and donations – including water, food, medicine and diapers – to the hospital.

Several European nations denounced the attacks with France calling it “barbaric” while the United Kingdom’s new prime minister Keir Starmer said attacking innocent children was “the most depraved of actions.”

The French foreign ministry said in a statement that the strikes were “barbaric acts, aimed directly and deliberately at a children’s hospital, should be added to the list of war crimes for which Russia will be held to account.”

According to the World Health Organization, there have been more than 1,600 instances of heavy weapons attacks impacting medical facilities in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion, with 141 people killed in these attacks.

Last December, 12 pregnant women and four newborn babies had a lucky escape from a maternity hospital in Dnipro that had been extensively damaged in an airstrike. Previously, the bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol less than a month after Russian troops flooded across the border sparked international condemnation.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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