Biden condemns ‘Russian aggression’ as Ukraine mourns children’s hospital attack

They searched through the night, painstakingly picking through the rubble of Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, part of which was destroyed by the strikes President Joe Biden called “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality.”

As Ukraine mourned Tuesday, officials ended the search and rescue operation after the strike that badly damaged the renowned Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital.

As crews rushed to clear out the damage and get the facility up and running again, Danielle Bell, the head of the United Nations’ human rights monitoring mission said there was “a high likelihood that the children’s hospital suffered a direct hit.”

The Ukrainian Health Ministry said Monday that a doctor and a patient’s relative were killed in the strike on the facility, which interrupted open-heart surgery and forced young cancer patients to take their treatments outdoors.

Medical workers and patients were filmed in bloodied clothes, walking through the rubble, apparently dazed, while video taken inside the hospital showed windows blown out onto patient beds and blood spattered on the floor.

Roman Petrushev, a volunteer with Red Cross Ukraine, said hundreds of civilians were clearing the debris when he arrived at the scene. “It was just shock,” he told NBC News Tuesday, adding that inside the hospital he saw corridors covered in blood and destroyed units with modern equipment.

A car lies under the rubble as emergency and rescue personnel search for survivors outside the children’s hospital.Roman Pilipey / AFP – Getty Images

Condemning the strike Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 38 people were killed by a massive daylight Russian rocket attack on capital, Kyiv, and cities in central and eastern Ukraine. Four children were among the dead, he said. In total, 190 people were injured, he added.

Russia “must be held accountable for this,” he said in a separate statement. In another post on X, Zelenskyy criticized Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for visiting Moscow for meetings with President Vladimir Putin.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow on such a day,” he wrote after pictures emerged of Modi and Putin sharing a hug.

The daytime barrage targeted five Ukrainian cities with more than 40 missiles of different types hitting apartment buildings and public infrastructure, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on social media.
Medical staff in blood-soaked gowns clean up the rubble and search for victims.Anton Shtuka / AP

Amid widespread international condemnation of the strikes, President Joe Biden called them “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality” in a statement released by the White House.

Insisting that Washington’s support for Ukraine was “unshakable,” he said it was “critical that the world continues to stand with Ukraine at this important moment and that we not ignore Russian aggression.”

His statement came the eve of a NATO summit in Washington that marks the 75th anniversary of the transatlantic alliance. Zelenskyy will attend the summit along with leaders of countries that have provided Kyiv with tens of billions of dollars in military aid.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Tuesday it had evidence it said proved that the hospital was hit in a direct and targeted strike by Russian Kh-101 missile. Investigators found fragments of the rocket’s engine at the site, it said, as well as part of its hull and wing opening mechanism. The SBU said its conclusion was based on analysis of the rocket’s flight path, the nature of the damage and a large number of video and photos of the rocket’s flight.

A major Russian missile attack across Ukraine on Monday killed at least 31 people and injured 154, officials said, with one striking a large children’s hospital in the capital of Kyiv, where emergency crews searched the rubble for victims.
Polina, 10, looks after her sister Marina, 3, outside the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital.Alex Babenko / AP

Bell, the head of the U.N.’s monitoring mission, also said Tuesday that there was “a high likelihood that the children’s hospital suffered a direct hit rather than receiving damages due to an intercepted weapon system,” but a further investigation was needed.

Russia has denied responsibility. Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the country’s Foreign Ministry, said a Western-supplied NASAMS air defense missile hit the hospital instead. “It has already been confirmed, including by numerous witnesses,” she said, without providing any evidence for her claim.

NBC News could not independently verify what type of rocket hit the hospital.

But officials were already counting the cost. Ukraine’s Health Ministry said the hospital’s toxicology department was completely destroyed. The surgical and intensive care departments  suffered significant damage, as were recently constructed departments responsible for oncology and radiation therapy treatments for young patients.

“A part of the country’s only oncology and hematology laboratory was also lost,” it said.

During more than 28 months of war, Russian shells and missiles completely destroyed more than 200 medical facilities in Ukraine, the country’s health ministry said on Monday. Another 1,630 medical facilities have been damaged.

Elsewhere, an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War said the Russian missile strikes on Monday likely employed “a new and noteworthy tactic” to maximize the damage. It added that their low altitude before the strike was something “Ukraine will need to learn to respond to.”

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