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KYIV: Emergency and rescue personnel along with medics and others clear the rubble of the destroyed building of Okhmatdyt Children's Hospital following a Russian missile attack on July 8, 2024. - AFP
KYIV: Emergency and rescue personnel along with medics and others clear the rubble of the destroyed building of Okhmatdyt Children's Hospital following a Russian missile attack on July 8, 2024. - AFP

Russia strikes kill 36 in Ukraine, gut children’s hospital

KYIV: Russia rained missiles down on cities across Ukraine in broad daylight on Monday morning, killing at least 36 civilians and badly damaging Kyiv’s main children’s hospital in the deadliest air strike in months, officials said. Parents holding babies walked in the street outside the hospital, dazed and sobbing after the rare daylight aerial attack. Windows had been smashed and panels ripped off and hundreds of Kyiv residents were helping to clear debris.

“It was scary. I couldn’t breathe, I was trying to cover (my baby). I was trying to cover him with this cloth so that he could breathe,” Svitlana Kravchenko, 33, told Reuters. Air defenses shot down 30 of 38 incoming missiles, the air force said. Fifty civilian buildings, including residential buildings, a business center and two medical facilities were damaged in Kyiv, the central cities of Kryvyi Rih and Dnipro and two eastern cities, the interior minister said.

An online video obtained by Reuters, the location of which was verified

using buildings in the footage, showed a missile falling from the sky towards the Okhmatdyt pediatric hospital followed by a large explosion. The Security Service of Ukraine identified the missile as a Kh-101 cruise missile and claimed that it contained components produced in NATO member countries. Russia however claimed the extensive missile damage in Kyiv was in fact caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile.

Twenty-one people were killed in Kyiv and 65 more wounded in the main missile volley and another strike that came two hours later, emergency services said. Debris from the latter missile hit a different Kyiv hospital, killing seven people, they said. Eleven were confirmed dead in Kryvyi Rih and 47 wounded, the emergency services said. Three people had been killed in the eastern town of Pokrovsk where missiles hit an industrial facility, the regional governor said. One person was also killed in the city of Dnipro, officials said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Ukraine would retaliate and called on Kyiv’s western allies to give a firm response to the attack. “We will retaliate against these people, we will deliver a powerful response from our side to Russia, for sure. The question to our partners is: can they respond?” Zelenskiy who is visiting Poland said during a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Kyiv was initiating an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in connection with the attack, he said. The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces had carried out strikes on defense industry targets and aviation bases in Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, although its attacks have killed thousands of civilians since it launched its invasion in Feb 2022.

The attack came a day before leaders of NATO countries were due to begin a three-day summit of the military alliance that Zelenskiy is expected to attend with the war in Ukraine one of the focuses. “This callous aggression - a total disregard for human life, jeopardizing European & Transatlantic security - is why leaders will make significant security commitments to Ukraine this week,” the US ambassador to Kyiv, Bridget Brink, posted on X.

Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said Ukraine still lacked enough air defenses and urged Kyiv’s allies to supply more systems promptly to help protect its cities and infrastructure from regular Russian aerial attacks. The power grid has already sustained so much damage from targeted Russian air strikes that began in March that electricity cuts have become widespread and the whirring sound of backup power generators in the streets has become ubiquitous.

DTEK, the largest private power producer, said three electricity substations and networks had been damaged in Kyiv. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the attack on the capital was one of the largest of the war. The health minister said that five units of the children’s hospital, the largest and best equipped in the country, were damaged and children were evacuated to other facilities. Pictures distributed by Ukrainian officials showed medical staff wearing blood-stained outfits and children - some still hooked up on medical machines - pictured outside the building with their mothers or hospital staff.

Medical staff acted quickly to move patients and personnel to the facility’s basement after air raid sirens rang out over Kyiv on Monday. “For some reason, we always thought that Okhmatdyt was protected,” said Nina, a 68-year-old hospital employee. “We were 100 percent sure that they would not hit here,” she told AFP, as she described the frantic rush as staff moved children with IV drips to the bunker. – Agencies

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