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Zelensky blasts Modi meeting with Putin the same day Russian attack devastates Ukraine hospital


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday criticized his Indian counterpart’s visit to Moscow, calling it “a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts,” the same day a Russian missile crashed into a children’s hospital in kyiv.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow on Monday, as 900 kilometres (560 miles) away Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities in a morning rush-hour attack that killed at least 37 people and wounded 170 others.

Modi’s two-day trip marks his first visit to Russia since Putin began his full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two and a half years ago, with images and video Monday showing the two leaders hugging, chatting over tea, riding in an electric vehicle and watching a horse show.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy embrace the world’s bloodiest criminal in Moscow on such a day,” Zelensky said in a message on X on Monday, referring to the deadly Russian attacks.

The heavy shelling hit the capital kyiv, as well as cities such as Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, some of which are densely populated areas far from the front lines.

In kyiv, 27 people were killed, including four children, Ukrainian emergency services said on Tuesday. Two people were killed and at least 16 others injured in the attack on the Okhmatdyt hospital in kyiv.

The facility is the largest children’s medical center in Ukraine and has played a vital role in caring for some of the country’s sickest children.

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Rescuers work at Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital which was damaged in a Russian missile strike, in kyiv, Ukraine, July 8, 2024.

Videos from the scene showed volunteers working with police and security services to dig through the rubble as smoke billowed from the hospital. Search and rescue operations for people potentially trapped under the rubble continued Tuesday.

Hospital staff said they tried to get the children to safety after the attack. Two children were in operating rooms at the time of the blast and both were moved to the basement shelter after their surgeries were completed, a head nurse told CNN. Another head nurse said surgery on a 2-year-old 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,” Iryna Filimonova said. “The baby was brought (to the shelter). I immediately ran to help clear the rubble.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said the blast forced medical staff to treat sick children outside the facility.

“Patients were 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,” he said in a statement.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that its forces struck “military industrial facilities of Ukraine and air bases of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” with high-precision and long-range weapons. Without providing evidence, the Russian ministry also claimed that photos and videos of the hospital explosion confirmed that the damage was caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile.

Meanwhile, near the Russian capital, Modi thanked Putin for hosting him at his suburban residence, saying in a message on X: “I look forward to our discussions tomorrow as well, which will certainly go a long way in further consolidating the bonds of friendship between India and Russia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet Modi in the Kremlin on Tuesday for official talks. The trip is a sign that New Delhi and Moscow remain close despite Russia’s growing reliance on China. It is widely seen as the final obstacle to Western leaders’ efforts to sideline Putin.

India has long-standing ties with Moscow and remains heavily dependent on the Kremlin for military equipment. It has increased purchases of discounted Russian crude oil, providing Putin’s country with significant financial support as it faces isolation from the West.

Gavril Grigorov/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk during an informal meeting near Moscow, July 8, 2024.

Ahead of the visit, a statement from Modi’s office said the Indian leader would review “all aspects of bilateral cooperation with my friend President Vladimir Putin and share our views on various regional and global issues. We seek to play a supportive role for a peaceful and stable region.”

The United States has expressed concerns to India about its relationship with Russia, a US State Department spokesperson told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

“I will be following Prime Minister Modi’s public statements to see what he has talked about, but as I said, we have made clear directly to India our concerns about its relationship with Russia,” spokesman Matthew Miller said. “We hope that India and any other country, when engaging with Russia, will make clear that Russia must respect the Charter of the United Nations, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

While India has called for cessation of hostilities in Ukraine and restoration of peace, it has also abstained from voting on all resolutions concerning Ukraine at the United Nations and has stopped short of condemning the Russian invasion.

Gavril Grigorov/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit a horse stable during an informal meeting outside Moscow, July 8, 2024.

Trade between the two countries was worth nearly $65 billion in 2023-24, mainly due to strong energy cooperation, but the bulk of this total went to Russia, according to Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal.

Reducing the trade imbalance would be a “top priority” in Modi’s talks with Putin, he said ahead of the trip.

The visit is also Modi’s first bilateral trip since winning a rare third term in India’s mammoth elections last month.

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said the Kremlin attached “paramount importance” to Modi’s visit, Russia’s official TASS news agency reported.

The Russian attacks in Ukraine come a day before US President Joe Biden is due to host a crucial NATO summit in Washington, where new announcements on the alliance’s military, political and financial support for kyiv are expected.

Biden called the Russian missile strikes in kyiv — including on the children’s hospital — “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality,” in a statement released Monday night.

“It is critical that the world continue to support Ukraine at this important moment and that we do not ignore Russian aggression,” Biden said.

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