(MARIUPOL, Ukraine) — An injured pregnant woman who was carried on a stretcher from a Russian-bombed maternity hospital last week has died, along with her baby, The Associated Press has learned.
Images of the woman, whom the AP could not identify, have been seen around the world, personifying the horror of an attack on civilians.
She was one of at least three pregnant women AP has found since the maternity ward was bombed in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Wednesday. The other two survived, along with their newborn daughters.
In video and photos taken by AP reporters after the hospital attack, the injured woman stroked her bloody left lower abdomen as rescuers carried her through the rubble, her blanched face reflecting her shock at what had just happened.
It was one of the most brutal moments so far in Russia’s now 19-day war in Ukraine.
The woman was taken to another hospital, closer to the frontline, where doctors tried to save her. Realizing she was losing her baby, doctors said she cried out to them, “Kill me now!”
Dr Timur Marin said on Saturday that the woman’s pelvis had been crushed and her hip detached. Her baby was born by caesarean section but showed “no signs of life”, he said.
They tried to save the woman and “more than 30 minutes of resuscitation of the mother yielded no results,” Marin said. “Both are dead.”
In the chaos following the airstrike, medical workers did not get her name until her husband and father took her body away. Doctors said they were grateful she did not end up in the mass graves dug for many of Mariupol’s dead.
Accused of attacking civilians, Russian officials claimed the maternity ward had been taken over by Ukrainian extremists to serve as a base, and no patients or doctors had been left inside. The Russian Ambassador to the UN and the Russian Embassy in London falsely called the AP images fake.
Associated Press reporters, who report from inside blocked Mariupol since the start of the war, documented the attack and saw the casualties and damage firsthand. They filmed videos and photos of several bloodstained pregnant mothers fleeing the destroyed maternity ward as medical workers screamed and children cried.
The AP team found some of the victims on Friday and Saturday after they were transferred to another hospital on the outskirts of Mariupol. The port city on the Sea of Azov has been without food, water, electricity or heat for more than a week. The electricity from the emergency generators is reserved for the operating rooms.
As survivors described their ordeal, explosions rocked the walls, sending medical personnel shuddering. Shelling and shooting in the area is sporadic but incessant. Emotions were running high, even as doctors and nurses concentrated on their work.
Another pregnant woman, Mariana Vishegirskaya, gave birth to a daughter on Thursday. She recounted the bombing to the AP as she wrapped her arm around her newborn daughter, Veronika.
After AP photos and video showed her navigating debris-strewn stairs in her polka-dot pajamas while holding a blanket, Russian officials falsely claimed she was the actor in an attack staging.
“It happened on March 9 at Mariupol No. 3 Hospital. We were lying in rooms when the glass, frames, windows and walls came apart,” said Vishegirskaya, who blogged on social media about fashion and beauty.
“We don’t know how it happened. We were in our rooms and some had time to cover up, some didn’t,” she said.
His ordeal was one of many in the city of 430,000 that has become a symbol of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resistance to war in Ukraine.
The failure to fully capture Mariupol prompted Russian forces to expand their offensive elsewhere in Ukraine. The city is key to creating a land bridge between the Russian border and the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
In a new makeshift maternity hospital in Mariupol, each new birth brings renewed tension.
“All mothers who give birth have been through so much,” nurse Olga Vereshagina said.
A third pregnant woman seen by AP lost some of her toes in the bombing, and medical workers performed a C-section on her on Friday.
Her baby was rubbed vigorously to stimulate any signs of life. After a few tense moments, the baby began to moan.
Cheers echoed around the room amid the cries of the girl, who was named Alana. Her mother also cried, and the medical staff wiped tears from their own eyes.