A maternity and a children’s hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol (on the coast of the Sea of Azov, to the southeast, 446,000 inhabitants) suffered a brutal bombing on Wednesday. The attack occurred during the ceasefire agreed by Kiev and Moscow so that thousands of people trapped in the city, in a critical situation, could leave through humanitarian corridors. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has blamed Moscow for the “atrocity”. “There are children, people under the rubble,” he has stated on his social networks. “How long will the world be complicit in ignoring terror?” he added. “Europeans! They will not be able to say that they did not see what happened to the Ukrainians, to the residents of Mariupol”, stressed Zelenski, who assured that more than 35,000 people were evacuated yesterday through the humanitarian corridors. As reported on Thursday by the Mariupol municipality on Telegram, at least three people have died, including a girl. The first balance numbered 17 people injured, mainly members of the hospital staff. The Kremlin has ensured that Russian forces do not fire on civilian targets. The mayor of the city in the southeast of the country has assured that 1,200 people have died since the siege of this city began nine days ago.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches two weeks, and as forces from the former Soviet republic and civil society resist the onslaught, attacks on residential areas have become more vicious and the number of civilian casualties is on the rise. The United Nations has already counted 516 dead civilians and 908 wounded throughout the country since the Russian president ordered the start of the war. The agency warns, however, that the real figure is even higher.
Attacks on civilian infrastructure and residential areas have increased. The bombings give hardly any respite to Kharkov, in the east, the second most populous city in the country, with 1.4 million registered; nor to Chernigov, near the border with Belarus, with 286,000 inhabitants; nor to Mariupol. The World Health Organization (WHO) has verified 18 attacks in Ukraine against health facilities, health workers and ambulances, killing 10 people and injuring 16. Ukrainian Ombudsman Liudmila Denisova says that 62 children have died in 14 days of war.
Images released by the Ukrainian authorities show a building severely damaged by an attack and a large bomb crater in the courtyard, as well as burned or burned cars and downed trees. Also, several pregnant women trying to get out of the hospital, while the snow falls. The explosions, according to the images, broke the windows of the maternity hospital and scattered shrapnel. Other videos show the damage to other nearby buildings, such as the City Hall or the State Technical University. The attack has been condemned by the British foreign policy secretary, Liz Truss, who after her meeting with her American counterpart, has described the attack on the hospital as “abominable” and has blamed it on Russia.
In the port city – a strategic point that would allow Russia to create a corridor between the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed in 2014, and the Donbas region – the situation is “apocalyptic”, the Red Cross has denounced. There is no clean water supply, hardly any food left in looted shops or medicine, there is no heating or electricity and telecommunications networks are not working properly, and civilians remain huddled in shelters to shelter from relentless bombardment. Nearly 3,000 newborns will soon be left without medicine and food in Mariupol, according to Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. The little information that comes from within the city, surrounded by Russian forces, confirms that its inhabitants are already experiencing a human tragedy. Some 200,000 people are trying to flee the city, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
Yulia, a 50-year-old accountant who managed to flee Mariupol on Monday on foot, told EL PAÍS that the city’s stores no longer have supplies. The inhabitants have begun to cook with the snow they collect from the ground in improvised fires in parks and gardens. Each neighbor brings what little they have left at home to be able to cook it and share it with the rest. “The war has taught me that in case of need you would drink even the water from the puddles,” confesses this Ukrainian citizen, reports Margaret Yakovenko.
Ruins of destroyed buildings and corpses pile up in the center of this port and metallurgical production town in southeastern Ukraine. Some cars have been abandoned in the middle of the road with their occupants killed by projectiles inside. The authorities are burying the bodies in mass graves because it is impossible to do otherwise because of the continuous bombing. President Zelenski said on Monday that a six-year-old girl from Mariupol had died of dehydration for not having gotten water..
Failed Humanitarian Corridors
Moscow and Kiev had renewed this Wednesday, for the fifth consecutive day, the commitment to silence the weapons so that civilians could escape from five cities under fire from the fighting – including Mariupol – and from several towns near Kiev, the capital. In total, six humanitarian corridors were scheduled to be in force between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. local time. Only about 5,000 civilians have been able to escape from Sumi, in the northeast of the country, where a bomb killed 22 people, according to the Ukrainian authorities. From the town of Enerhodar, where the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant is located, occupied by Russian forces, who are holding their employees, a refugee convoy, made up mostly of women and children, has managed to leave the city, according to the Ukrainian authorities. .
The Bucha City Council, northwest of Kiev with 28,500 inhabitants, assured on its Facebook page that the Russian military was preventing the passage of 50 buses with civilians. In Izium (46,600 registered), in the Kharkov region, in eastern Ukraine, the departure of the inhabitants was delayed by Russian bombing, according to its governor, Oleh Synehoubov, in a message posted on Telegram.
As the siege of several key cities continues, the Russian army, which is trying to encircle Kiev, has not made much progress due to logistics and material problems, according to Western intelligence services. Meanwhile, it also seeks to progress on the southern flank, where it attacks the port city of Mikolaiv (486,000 registered), key to launching an offensive against Odessa, the pearl of the Black Sea, with almost a million inhabitants.
President Zelensky has insisted on Wednesday on the need for NATO to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine to prevent Russian aerial bombardment and has warned that the international community will be responsible for a massive “human catastrophe” if it does not. “Russia uses missiles, planes and helicopters against us, against civilians, against our cities, against our infrastructure. It is the humanitarian duty of the world to respond,” he said in a televised speech in which he called on the West to at least send planes to Ukraine.
This Thursday, with the bombing of the Mariupol maternity and child hospital as a backdrop, the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine are scheduled to meet in Antalia (Turkey), in a meeting that the Kremlin defined as a key step to resolve the conflict. It will be the first face-to-face meeting between Ukraine’s Dmyto Kuleba and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov in the two weeks since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. The three rounds that the delegations of both countries have held in Belarus, near the border with Ukraine, have not achieved any concrete results.
One in four Ukrainians will need help
When Kiev and Moscow are going to explore the path of dialogue again, international organizations have warned that Ukraine is facing a human catastrophe. The spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Spain (UNHCR), María Jesús Vega, warns that, if the escalation continues, up to 12 million people in Ukraine will soon need humanitarian aid (food, water, basic supplies and accommodation) to survive. This calculation encompasses practically a quarter of a population of just over 44 million inhabitants. This figure refers to people who will remain in Ukraine, not the four to five million refugees – more than 2.2 million Ukrainians have already left the country – that UNHCR estimates will flee the Russian invasion of the former Soviet republic. , says Vega, according to reports Trinity Deiros.
“Already before this war, three million Ukrainians needed humanitarian assistance to survive,” stresses the UNHCR spokeswoman. To this situation, which was already urgent before, caused by the eight-year conflict in the Donbas region, is now added this new war and enormous levels of destruction. “The impact of this war on human lives, on refugees, on internally displaced persons, and on destruction will undoubtedly be brutal,” emphasizes Vega.
Humanitarian corridors are used to allow civilians a safe route to escape from war. According to International Humanitarian Law, this is not a concession by the contenders, but rather a legal obligation, established in the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 and its additional protocols of 1977, which oblige the parties to protect civilians in wartime, facilitate their safe withdrawal and allow the free passage of food, medical supplies and other essential goods.
These theoretically safe escape routes consist of a temporary cessation of fighting to allow the civilian population to flee along previously agreed routes. The term was first evoked in the 1990s, during the Bosnian war in the former Yugoslavia. The United Nations General Assembly explicitly mentioned these corridors for the first time in 1990.
However, international organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have warned of the risk that these civilian exit corridors become a pretext to redouble attacks, once the humanitarian corridors are closed, and to clean up the image of those who they commit war crimes, on the pretext that civilians have been able to flee if they so wished.
In Ukraine, many people also find it difficult to flee: elderly, disabled or simply people without means who have nowhere to go. One in four Ukrainians is over 60 years old, according to the humanitarian organization HelpAge, citing official sources in the country. Many of them have mobility problems, as well as a greater resistance to leaving their lives behind.
Follow all the international information in Facebook and Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.
Quellenlink : elpais.com