Source: CNN

A Russian missile strike partially destroyed a children’s hospital in Kyiv on Monday, causing terrified patients and their families to flee for their lives.

Moscow launched a brazen daytime aerial assault on targets in cities across Ukraine during morning rush hour, killing at least 43 people, according to the latest figures released by authorities on Tuesday.

Search and rescue operations continued into Tuesday after the large-scale bombardment struck the capital, as well as in Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

The death toll includes 33 people in Kyiv, Ukrainian interior minister Ihor Klymenko said in an update Tuesday. Earlier, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said four children were among the dead after a boy’s body was found under the rubble in the capital’s Shevchenkivskyi district. Two people were killed and at least 16 others injured in the strike on Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt hospital.

The facility is Ukraine’s largest children’s medical center and has been vital in the care of some of the sickest children from across the country. Every year, around 7,000 surgeries – including treatments for cancer and hematological diseases – are conducted at the hospital, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets.

Footage from the children’s hospital showed volunteers working with police and security services to sift through the rubble as smoke billowed from the facility, as staff described how they tried to rush children to safety in the wake of the attack.

Two floors of the hospital were demolished, comprising an area of 400 square meters (4,300 sq. ft.), the emergency service said, while Ukraine’s health minister Viktor Liashko said intensive care units, oncology departments and surgery units had been damaged.

“Now we have evacuated all the children. Those who came for routine treatment have gone home, consulted with their doctors, and will decide where they will continue their treatment,” he told CNN Tuesday. “The rest of the children who were on oxygen support and connected to life support devices are now in hospitals and are being provided with adequate medical care.”

The attacks were part of a rare daylight bombardment on Ukrainian cities, some of which are heavily populated areas far from the front lines. It came a day before US President Joe Biden was set to host a crucial NATO Summit in Washington, where announcements over the alliance’s military, political and financial support for Kyiv are expected.

Biden called the strikes a “horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality.”

“It is critical that the world continues to stand with Ukraine at this important moment and that we not ignore Russian aggression,” Biden said, noting that he would meet with Volodymyr Zelensky during the summit “to make clear our support for Ukraine is unshakeable.”

Meanwhile, seven people were killed in a Russian attack Monday on a private medical facility in Kyiv belonging to the Adonis network, the company said. Of those killed, five were staff members and two were patients, Adonis said.

Russia’s defense ministry on Monday claimed that Moscow had struck “military industrial facilities of Ukraine and air bases of the Ukrainian armed forces” using long-range, high-precision weapons.

At a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday called to discuss the Russian strike, Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied targeting the children’s hospital.

“We have not bombed the children’s hospital,” Nebenzia said when responding to an accusation that Russia committed a war crime for allegedly striking the hospital.

Eyewitnesses recount hospital strike

Eyewitnesses recalled scenes of chaos moments after the Russian missile slammed into the children’s hospital. Ophthalmologist Lesya Lysytsia told CNN: “You see the light, then the sound, then everything falls down and then over the next several seconds you think, ‘are you still alive or is it the end and what to do? Where are the patients? How are the patients? How are the children?’”

Natalia Sardudinova, a senior nurse, described the strike as “scary,” when “windows were crunching.” She told CNN that two children were in operating theaters at the time of the blast, and they were relocated to a shelter in the basement once their procedures were completed.

“Everything was in smoke, there was no air to breathe. The doctor was cut by shrapnel. The windows and doors were blown out. One nurse in the hospital was heavily injured,” Sardudinova added. “My hands are still shaking. They don’t let anyone in now, they are afraid it will collapse.”

Yulia Vasylenko, the mother of an 11-year-old cancer patient at the hospital, said her son Denys was evacuated outside following the strike.

“My son is on painkillers. He has cancer. He has been without medication for half a day. He was brought down the stairs from the third floor. There was smoke (and) heavy dust,” she said.

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

“The lights went out, everything went out. We pulled out the instruments, shining flashlights. Everything was sewn up quickly,” Filimonova said. “The baby was brought down (to the shelter)… Some of my nursing colleagues who worked in the operating theaters and some doctors were cut by glass fragments. Our department was destroyed.”

Another operating theater nurse, Oksana Mosiychuk, said one medical team tried to extinguish a blaze that broke out in their department, including an operating table which had caught fire.

Air raid sirens continued to ring out over Kyiv in the aftermath, with CNN video showing people who had been evacuated pushing children on stretchers to safety. Scores of volunteers later dropped off much-needed supplies and donations – including water, food, medicine and diapers – to the hospital.

A UN team who visited the site later saw children “receiving treatment for cancer in hospital beds set up in parks and on streets, where medical workers had quickly established triage areas, amongst chaos, dust and debris,” the UN’s human rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.

In the hospital’s newer building, 12 departments were damaged, and a section of Ukraine’s only oncology and hematology laboratory was completely destroyed, according to the Kyiv military administration.

UN holds special meeting

Zelensky had called for an emergency assembly of the UN Security Council after the strike while vowing retaliation over the attacks. At the special meeting Tuesday, Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador, alleged, without any proof, that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile is what struck the hospital.

“If this had been a Russian strike, there would have been nothing left of the building at all. All the children and most of the adults would have been killed, not wounded,” Nebenzia said.

Ukraine shot down 30 out of 38 missiles launched by Russia during the Monday attack, 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, appealed for more air defense systems to support the war-torn country. Zelensky has repeatedly called on the West to provide it with more air defense systems to better protect its cities. Last month, he praised Biden for prioritizing a delivery after the two presidents signed a security agreement.

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

It came as several European nations denounced the shelling, with France urging for the attack to “be added to the list of war crimes for which Russia will be held to account.”

Germany and Slovakia have agreed to take in children from Ukraine for treatment. German health minister Karl Lauterbach said a rescue flight will leave on Wednesday, according to a post from the German embassy in London on X.

Meanwhile, the Czech foreign minister said he summoned the Russian ambassador in Prague over the attack on the hospital.

Monday’s attack is the tragic but all too familiar reality for many of Ukraine’s civilians over the past two and a half years since Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Since February 2022, the conflict has claimed the lives of 11,126 people and injured 21,863 others, according to data in May from the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

Additionally, the heavy fighting has caused an estimated 3.7 million people to be driven from their homes and internally displaced while nearly 6.5 million people have fled to neighboring countries, the UNHCR has said.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been more than 1,600 instances of heavy weapons attacks impacting medical facilities in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion, with 141 people killed in these attacks.

Health minister Liashko told CNN on Tuesday that of the impacted facilities, “more than 250 have been completely destroyed and cannot be restored. Only new ones can be built.”

Last December, 12 pregnant women and four newborn babies had a fortunate escape from a maternity hospital in Dnipro that had been extensively damaged in an airstrike. Previously, the bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol less than a month after Russian troops flooded across the border sparked international condemnation.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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