Ukraine has accused Russia of bombing a children’s hospital and maternity ward in the besieged port city of Mariupol, wounding 17 people and trapping children and others under the rubble in what it called “a war crime without justification”.
Russia had said it would hold fire to let thousands of civilians flee Mariupol and other besieged cities on Wednesday, but Mariupol’s city council said the hospital had been hit several times by an air strike.
“The destruction is colossal,” it said in an online post.
The ground shook more than a mile away when the Mariupol complex was hit by the series of blasts that blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one building.
Footage from the scene showed police and soldiers rushing to the scene to evacuate victims, carrying out a heavily pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher as light snow drifted down on burning and mangled cars and trees shattered by the blast.
Another woman wailed as she clutched her child. In the courtyard, a blast crater extended at least two stories deep.
“Today Russia committed a huge crime,” said Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, standing in the ruins. “It is a war crime without any justification.”
‘Close the sky right now’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also shared footage on Twitter from the scene of the alleged attack, which appeared to show several wrecked rooms along a corridor in a building that had blown-out windows. Outside of the building, a square carpeted with rubble and debris could be seen.
“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,” Zelenskyy said.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the footage.
When asked by Reuters news agency for comment, a spokesman for the Kremlin said: “Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets.”