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Ukraine: Children’s hospital attacked as Russian strikes on cities kill at least 36

Kyiv, Ukraine

A Russian missile strike partially destroyed a children’s hospital in kyiv on Monday, sending terrified patients and their families fleeing for their lives as authorities feared more people could be trapped under the rubble.

Moscow launched a large-scale airstrike against targets in several Ukrainian cities during the morning rush hour, killing at least 36 people and wounding 137 others, according to Ukrainian emergency services. The large-scale shelling hit areas of the capital, as well as Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

In an update on Telegram, the emergency service said the latest toll included the number of dead and wounded in the capital, which now stands at 22 people killed. Two people were killed and at least 16 were injured in the strike on Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital.

The facility is Ukraine’s largest children’s medical center and plays a vital role in treating some of the country’s sickest children. Every year, about 7,000 surgeries – including for cancer and blood diseases – are performed there, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.

Videos from the scene showed volunteers working with police and security services to search through the rubble as smoke billowed from the hospital, while staff described how they were trying to get children to safety after the attack. Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko said intensive care units, oncology wards and surgical units had been damaged.

More than 600 patients have been evacuated from the hospital, and more than 100 have been transferred to other health facilities, Liashko said, according to the state-run Ukrinform news agency.

“The main task here is to pull people out of the rubble and provide assistance to those we can reach, because we have already evacuated all the first ones,” Liashko said in a message on Telegram.

The attacks are part of a series of daylight bombings on Ukrainian cities, some of them densely populated areas far from the front lines. They come on the eve of a crucial NATO summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington, where new announcements of the alliance’s military, political and financial support for kyiv are expected.

Seven more people were killed Monday in a Russian attack on a private medical facility in kyiv owned by the Adonis network, the company said. Among the victims, five were staff members and two were patients, Adonis said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that Moscow had struck “military-industrial facilities of Ukraine and air bases of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” using long-range, high-precision weapons.

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Medics and bystanders help clear debris after the strike.

Natalia Sardudinova, a head nurse, described the moment the strike hit the hospital, saying: “It was scary, but we survived.”

“It was loud, the windows were cracking,” she told CNN. “As soon as the alarm went off, the kids were taken out into the hallway.”

She said two children were in the operating rooms at the time of the explosion and both were moved to the basement shelter after their operations were completed.

“Everything was in smoke, there was no air to breathe. The doctor was injured by shrapnel. The windows and doors were blown out. A nurse from the hospital was seriously injured,” Sardudinova added. “My hands are still shaking. They are not letting anyone in, they are afraid that the hospital will collapse.”

Yulia Vasylenko, the mother of an 11-year-old boy with cancer who is in hospital, said her son Denys was evacuated outside after the strike.

“My son is on painkillers. He has cancer. He hasn’t taken any medication for half a day. He was brought down from the third floor by the stairs. There was smoke and dust,” she said.

Iryna Filimonova, a senior nurse at the pediatric urology department, told CNN that an operation on a 2-year-old child was underway when the attack occurred.

“The lights went out, everything went out. We took out the instruments, turned on the flashlights. Everything was quickly sewn up,” Filimonova said. “The baby was lowered (into the shelter). I immediately ran to help clear the rubble. Some of my fellow nurses who worked in the operating rooms and some doctors were injured by shards of glass. Our department was destroyed.”

Oksana Mosiychuk, another operating room nurse, said they fled to the emergency room when the explosion rocked the building. Afterward, she said, the medical team had to put out a fire that broke out in their ward, including an operating table that caught fire.

“Luckily, everyone is alive. One of our colleagues was seriously injured, he had many cuts and shrapnel wounds, and was evacuated by ambulance. I also have minor shrapnel wounds, but I am fine. It was very scary. I was afraid for the children,” she said.

A UN team that visited the scene after the strike saw children “receiving cancer treatment in hospital beds set up in parks and on the streets, where medical staff had quickly established triage areas, amid chaos, dust and debris,” UN human rights commissioner Volker Turk said in a statement.

“Shockingly, one of the strikes severely damaged the intensive care, surgical and oncology departments of Okhmatdyt, Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, and destroyed its pediatric toxicology department, where children receive dialysis,” Turk said.

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Medical staff and community members are moving rubble from damaged areas of the hospital and searching for survivors.

The UN Security Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s deadly strike on a children’s hospital, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an emergency meeting while vowing retaliation for the attacks.

The Ukrainian leader said in a message on X that the exact number of victims in the hospital was not yet known and that “there are people under the rubble” but that everyone, from doctors to local residents, is helping to clear the debris after the strike.

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

Ukraine shot down 30 of the 38 missiles launched by Russia in its attack on Monday, the commander of the Ukrainian air force said in a statement, adding that Moscow used ballistic, cruise, guided and air-launched ballistic missiles.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov has called for more air defense systems to support the war-torn country. Zelensky has repeatedly called on the West to provide 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.

Air raid sirens continued to sound over kyiv after the incident. CNN video showed evacuees outside the hospital pushing children on stretchers to safety. Dozens of volunteers later brought much-needed supplies and donations, including water, food, medicine and diapers, to the hospital.

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Ukraine’s prosecutor general on Monday sent evidence of Monday’s Russian attacks to the prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Court.

Several European countries have denounced the bombings, with France demanding that the attack be “added to the list of war crimes for which Russia will be held accountable.” Britain’s new prime minister, Keir Starmer, called the strike on innocent children “the most depraved act.” Catherine Russell, executive director of the UN children’s agency, said the devastation of the medical facility “is another stark reminder that nowhere in Ukraine are children safe.”

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1,600 heavy weapons attacks have hit medical facilities in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion, killing 141 people.

Last December, 12 pregnant women and four newborns were lucky to escape from a maternity hospital in Dnipro that had been badly damaged by an airstrike. Earlier, the bombing of a maternity hospital and a children’s hospital in Mariupol, less than a month after Russian troops arrived at the border, had drawn international condemnation.

“This is a very difficult day for our hometown. Today we suffered one of the biggest missile attacks on our hometown,” Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko told CNN’s Becky Anderson.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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