Ukraine-Russia war update: Moscow accused of war crime after Kyiv hospital attacked

Ukraine-Russia war update: Moscow accused of war crime after Kyiv hospital attacked

A massive Russian convoy that had been positioned just outside the Ukrainian capital has broken up, according to satellite photos cited by The Associated Press. The images, taken by Maxar Technologies, revealed that the 40-mile convoy of vehicles, tanks, and artillery has been redeployed, with armored units seen in towns near the Antonov Airport north of Kyiv. The artillery pieces have been moved into firing positions. The convoy had been outside of Kyiv since early last week, but Ukrainian forces, along with reported food and fuel shortages, slowed its advance.

Meanwhile, Britain on Thursday accused Russia of committing a “war crime” for an attack on a children’s and maternity hospital in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials reported that at least three people, including a young girl, were killed in the strike, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky labeled an “atrocity.” U.K. armed forces minister James Heappey stated that regardless of whether it was “indiscriminate” fire by Russia into a built-up area or a deliberate targeting of a health facility, “it is a war crime.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking alongside Poland’s president in Warsaw, noted the attack on the hospital and said the world was witnessing “atrocities of unimaginable proportions in Ukraine.” “We stand with the people of Ukraine,” Harris said after reaffirming America’s “ironclad” commitment to defend NATO nations.

Asked later if she believed Russia’s actions should be investigated as possible war crimes, Harris said that “when it comes to crimes and violations of international norms,” the U.S. was “clear that any intentional attack on innocent victims is a violation.” She mentioned that the United Nations had an established process to determine whether war crimes had been committed and that “absolutely there should be an investigation. The eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done.”

Speaking after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims of a Russian attack on a functioning hospital as lies and propaganda. Lavrov claimed the hospital was being used as a base by an “ultra-radical” Ukrainian battalion and that Russia had submitted data to the United Nations to prove its claim. He accused foreign media of manipulating information on the strike and insisted that no patients or staff had been at the facility, which he said had “long ago become a base for extremists.”

CBS News’ Pamela Falk reported from United Nations headquarters that Russia’s U.N. ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told Security Council members on March 7 that “locals” in Mariupol had reported “that Ukraine’s Armed Forces kicked out personnel of natal hospital #1 of the city of Mariupol and set up a firing site within the facility.” Nebenzia offered no evidence to support the claim, and Russia has been accused for weeks by the West of making false statements to create a pretext for attacks in Ukraine. Later on Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry denied having attacked the hospital at all, accusing Ukrainian forces of a “staged provocation” at the facility.

“We lost three people, including a child, a girl. The number of wounded is 17. These are children, women, medical workers,” Ukraine’s Zelensky said in a video address on Thursday. “This topic was mentioned on Russian TV,” said Zelensky. “But not a word of truth was said. The Russians were lied to that there had been no patients in the hospital and no women or children in the maternity hospital. The Russians were lied to that ‘nationalists’ had allegedly taken up positions there. They lie confidently, as always.”

CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata reported that the massive airstrike on the hospital in Mariupol shattered a fragile cease-fire in the southern port city late Wednesday afternoon amid efforts to evacuate civilians. Emergency teams and soldiers scrambled to evacuate the wounded, including pregnant women, from the hospital. The blast destroyed the complex inside and out, and the size and depth of the crater and the surrounding debris were clear evidence of its ferocity.

Albania’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ferit Hoxha, speaking to the Security Council, dismissed Russian allegations that the hospital was being used by any armed forces. “What we saw were women in labor among rubble. We condemn this in the strongest terms. This is a crime which should not remain unpunished and no one should get away with crime,” Hoxha said.

Mariupol has come under heavy Russian bombardment for days, cutting off power and water to more than 400,000 people trapped in the city. Ukrainian officials say at least 1,200 civilians have been killed there since the war began, and images have shown city workers placing bodies into a mass grave.

Ukrainian officials said at least seven more civilians were killed in further Russian artillery attacks overnight, and the city council said on Thursday that the rocket fire continued, hitting more civilian infrastructure. “Bombs are hitting houses,” the council said in a social media post.

A video shared on the Telegram social media app by Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, showed what he said were fresh strikes hitting central Mariupol on Thursday. “Russian occupiers continue to shell residential areas of Mariupol. The maternity and the children’s hospitals are not enough for them, they want more victims among the civilians,” Gerashchenko said in his post.

A humanitarian convoy trying to reach Mariupol was forced to turn back on Thursday because of ongoing fighting, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. After his discussion with Lavrov, Ukraine’s Kuleba said he was prepared to meet his counterpart again to “continue engagement” aimed at first establishing a cease-fire and humanitarian corridor for Mariupol, saying the city was at the epicenter of the humanitarian crisis in his country.

In a separate development, a first round of talks between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine failed to yield progress on a ceasefire. Speaking after the meeting in Turkey, Dmytro Kuleba said that the demands his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had made amounted to a surrender. Lavrov, meanwhile, said his country’s military operation was going to plan. The talks came after Russia bombed a children’s hospital, which Ukraine said was a war crime. Officials say three people, including a child, died in the attack in Mariupol.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, and more than 2.3 million people have since fled the country. The worst humanitarian situation was in Mariupol, where residents have been trapped for days in freezing temperatures without electricity or water. Russia had not committed to establishing a humanitarian corridor there and had also not responded to proposals for a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire across Ukraine.

“I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender,” Kuleba said, adding that he was willing to continue meeting. For his part, the Russian foreign minister offered no concessions and repeated demands that Ukraine be disarmed and accept neutral status. Moscow was waiting for a reply from Kyiv, he said. Lavrov also accused the West of fueling the conflict by supplying weapons to Ukraine. Russia would cope with Western sanctions and “come out of the crisis with a better psychology and conscience,” he said.

UN Secretary General António Guterres described the attack as “horrific,” and the US accused Russia of a “barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians.” But at his press conference, Lavrov dismissed allegations of a war crime in Mariupol, alleging that the maternity hospital had been occupied by Ukrainian forces.

Mariupol, where about 400,000 people live, has been surrounded by Russian forces for several days, and repeated attempts at a ceasefire to allow civilians to leave have broken down. All the shops were looted several days ago, and many people in the city no longer had food for their children. Sasha Volkov from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team in Mariupol told the NGO by satellite phone on Wednesday, “People started to attack each other for food. People started to ruin someone’s car to take the gasoline out.” He added, “We have started to get sick, many of us, because of the humidity and cold that we have.”

Western officials, including the White House, have warned that Russia could use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine or create a “false flag” operation. At his press conference, Lavrov repeated Russia’s claim that the Pentagon was using Ukrainian territory to develop pathogens that could be used to create biological weapons, an assertion the US has called “preposterous.” He also alleged that Ukraine had been preparing an attack against two Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.

The US House of Representatives voted in favor of nearly $14 billion in aid for Ukraine, as well as voting to ban US imports of Russian oil and other energy products. The measures still must pass through the Senate, which is expected to vote later this week. Meanwhile, US Vice-President Kamala Harris is in Poland, a day after Washington rejected the country’s plan to transfer military jets to the US, rather than directly to Ukraine.

US officials estimated that between 5,000 to 6,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since the war began on February 24. Ukraine says more than 12,000 Russian service personnel have died, while Russia last week acknowledged 498 fatalities, but none of the competing claims can be clearly verified.

Source: CBS, AFP, Reuters, Al Jazeera

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