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Russian forces bombed a maternity and children’s hospital on Wednesday in the key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where more than 400,000 people are stranded after an evacuation attempt was thwarted.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared video of what he described as the “direct strike of Russian troops” on the maternity hospital in Mariupol. He again demanded the skies be closed over Ukraine.
“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!” Zelenskyy tweeted. “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.”
Reuters also reported on Wednesday that Russian bombing destroyed a children’s hospital in Mariupol, according to their city council.
Russian forces were “holding hostage” more than 400,000 people by blocking humanitarian aid and evacuation from Mariupol, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted earlier Wednesday. He claimed that nearly 3,000 newborn babies were in dire need of food and medicine. “I urge the world to act!” he tweeted. “Force Russia to stop its barbaric war on civilians and babies!”
Roman Hryshchuk, a member of Ukrainian Parliament, tweeted video showing the destroyed hospital and pleaded for NATO allied forces to send jets to close the sky over Ukraine.
Two weeks into the invasion, the Russians have advanced deep along Ukraine’s coastline in what could establish a land bridge to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Mariupol, which sits on the Azov Sea, has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for days.
Sharing disturbing photos on Wednesday showing dead bodies strewn across badly bombed out city blocks, Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said Mariupol is “besieged” by Russia invaders who keep shelling and killing the civilian population of the city.
“They don’t care whether it’s elderly person, women or children,” she wrote. “We ask to close the sky over Ukraine or provide us with weapon we need and we will do ourselves.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that corpses were lying in the streets of Mariupol and that hungry people were breaking into stores in search of food and melting snow for drinking water.
An attempt to evacuate civilians and deliver badly needed food, water and medicine through a designated safe corridor failed on Tuesday, with Ukrainian officials saying Russian forces had fired on the convoy before it reached the city. The Russian military has denied firing on convoys and charged that the Ukrainian side is blocking evacuation efforts.
Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman at Ukraine’s U.N. Mission, told the Security Council that the people of Mariupol have “been effectively taken hostage,” by the siege. Her voice shook with emotion as she described how a 6-year-old died shortly after her mother was killed by Russian shelling. “She was alone in the last moments of her life,” she said.
Authorities in Mariupol planned to start digging mass graves for all the dead, though the number of casualties is unclear. The shelling has shattered buildings, and the city has no water, heat, working sewage systems or phone service. Theft has become widespread for food, clothes, even furniture, with locals referring to the practice as “getting a discount.” Some residents are reduced to scooping water from streams.
Thousands of people were forced to shelter in basements and underground bunkers.
With the electricity out, many people are relying on their car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists.
For days, as Moscow’s forces have laid siege to Ukrainian cities, attempts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians have stumbled amid continuing fighting and objections to the proposed routes. Ukraine has rejected Moscow’s offers of corridors that lead civilians to Russia or its ally Belarus.
Mariupol, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, is in a “catastrophic situation.”
One evacuation did appear successful Tuesday, with Vereshchuk saying that 5,000 civilians, including 1,700 foreign students, had been brought out via a safe corridor from Sumy, an embattled northeastern city of a quarter-million people where overnight strikes killed 21, including two children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.