AT least seventeen people were wounded after a Russian airstrike destroyed a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine has claimed.
President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed the hospital suffered a “direct strike” and children were left buried under the rubble on Wednesday afternoon, branding the attack as an act of “genocide”.
Officials were last night racing to rescue trapped survivors as temperatures plunge to minus four degrees Celsius (24.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
The airstrike was carried out during an agreed ceasefire period that was meant to allow the evacuation of civilians from the besieged southern city, said regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
He said on a Facebook post: “So far there are 17 wounded personnel of the hospital” adding that “so far no kids were wounded” and there have been “no deaths”. It’s been reported that women in labour were among the 17 injured.
Many pregnant women who were at the hospital were hiding in the basement when the strike occurred, according to reports.
Horror footage showed the charred remains of the hospital with wounded staff and patients being rushed out of the building into a devastating scene of burning cars and smouldering rubble.
The video showed holes where windows should have been in what appeared to be a badly damaged three-storey building at the hospital.
A wounded mum-to-be, who was led out of the wrecked unit, wrapped in a duvet to keep warm in the freezing temperatures.
Harrowing pictures show corpses being put in body bags and dumped in mass graves following the shelling.
Workers can be seen digging a 25m trench at one of the old cemeteries in the besieged port city, making the sign of the cross as they push the dead bodies into the pit.
The corpses were wrapped in carpets or bags.
Also on Wednesday in Zhytomyr, located to the west of Kyiv, bombs fell on two hospitals, including one children’s hospital. No injuries were reported in that strike, according to Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn, posting an update to Facebook.
Previous attempts to allow civilians to evacuate safely failed, with harrowing images showing people running for shelter.
The city council accused brutal Russian forces of “dropping several bombs” on the hospital with footage showing a huge crater outside one of the buildings.
Mariupol city council said: “The Russian occupying forces have dropped several bombs on the children’s hospital. The destruction is colossal.”
Zelensky shared footage of the harrowing scene inside the building and said: “Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!
“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.”
In a separate Telegram video, Zelensky released another video message, urging Europeans to “tighten the sanctions.”
“Europeans, you can’t say you didn’t see what is happening. You have to tighten the sanctions until Russia can’t continue their savage war,” Zelensky said.
“What kind of country bombs hospitals? Is afraid of hospitals? Of a maternity ward?”
The Ukraine president has repeatedly urged the US and other Nato nations to impose a no-fly zone to protect his citizens against bombing, rocket attacks and advancing Russian troops.
But Nato members warned a no-fly zone could lead to direct clashes between Russian and Nato forces.
Boris Johnson slammed the “depraved” airstrike in Mariupol which targeted “vulnerable and defenceless” mums and babies.
The PM said: “There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless.
“The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against airstrikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes.”
Ukrainian MP Dmytro Gurin claimed “many” women had been killed or wounded in the Russian bombardment.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the attack was “abhorrent”.
Meanwhile, British security services fear Russia could use chemical weapons as Putin “tightens the noose” on Ukraine.
Western officials fear Mad Vlad will use non-conventional weapons such as weaponised sarin, chlorine and mustard gas.
One said: “We’ve got good reason to be concerned about possible use of non-conventional weapons.
“Partly because we’ve seen what has happened in other theatres for example in Syria… so it’s a serious concern for us.”
Days of shelling in Mariupol have cut residents off from the outside world and forced them to scavenge for food and water.
Mariupol’s deputy mayor said 1,170 civilians have been killed in the city since the start of the Russian invasion.
Serhiy Orlov was quoted as saying: “At least 1,170 people have been killed and 47 were buried in a mass grave today.
“People are without water, heat, electricity, gas, residents are melting snow to drink.”
Yesterday, a girl, eight, died of dehydration after Russian attacks left her without access to water, power, or heating.
And a Red Cross aid mission was allegedly hit by a Russian bomb in the city, amid reports victims of shelling are being buried in mass graves.
Two bombs were dropped in the attack on the International and the Ukrainian Committees of the Red Cross, according to unverified reports.
The Red Cross described conditions inside the city as “apocalyptic”, with residents sheltering underground from relentless bombardment.
Despite Russian and Ukrainian officials agreeing to establish “humanitarian corridors” to allow civilians out of some cities, Russia has been accused of shelling evacuation routes.
The Ukrainian defence ministry said Russian forces “launched an attack right at the humanitarian corridor” and “did not let children, women and elderly people leave the city”.
Earlier Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had broken the ceasefire around the southern port – which lies between Russian-backed separatist areas of eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
He said: “Russia continues holding hostage over 400,000 people in Mariupol, blocks humanitarian aid and evacuation. Indiscriminate shelling continues.
“Almost 3,000 newborn babies lack medicine and food.”
Thousands of people are thought to have been killed in Ukraine – both civilians and soldiers – in two weeks of fighting since Putin’s forces stormed the country.
The UN said more than two million people have now fled the country – the biggest exodus of refugees in Europe since the end of World War Two.
Authorities announced a new ceasefire today to allow civilians to escape from towns around Kyiv, as well as Mariupol, Enerhodar, Volnovakha, Izyum and Sumy.
Ukraine has blamed Russia for violating ceasefire agreements, although the Russian military denies firing on civilian convoys.
US defence officials estimate that Russia has fired more than 600 missiles from inside or at Ukraine since February 24.
It comes as Russia’s stranded troops are facing freezing to death in their tanks as Putin’s military becomes bogged down in the mud and an unwinnable war in Ukraine.
A 40-mile long convoy of tanks and armoured vehicles remains trapped outside Kyiv – more than a week after launching their assault on the Ukrainian capital.
As a sudden cold snap sends temperatures in Eastern Europe plunging to -10C overnight – or -20C including windchill – Russian troops are trapped in what one ex-soldier called “40-ton iron freezers”.
Icy conditions are also set to make life even harder for Putin‘s invaders, who have been stuck around 20 miles from Kyiv for days amid mechanical problems, fuel supply issues, and solid Ukrainian resistance.
Aerial satellite images taken on Wednesday morning show the traffic jam of Russian military vehicle close to Antonov Airport, just a few miles northwest of the outskirts of Kyiv.
Former British Army Major Kevin Price told the Mail Online that Russia’s tanks will become nothing more than “40-ton freezers” as temperatures plummet, and said that the bitter conditions will further dampen the morale of the Russian military.
Already, reports are coming in of demoralised Russian troops complaining about the war in intercepted phone calls to comrades and loved ones.
In the calls, Putin’s troops claim the war could drag on for “months” and say they are being “massacred” in Ukraine.
Russian soldiers are reportedly “deserting their posts” after “large-scale losses”, including the deaths of top generals.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Russian troops are having “morale problems”.
He said: “They are having supply problems. They are having fuel problems. They’re having food problems.
“They are meeting a very stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance. And we still maintain that they are several days behind what they probably thought they were going to be in terms of their progress.”
Today, President Zelensky warned the international community would be responsible for a mass “humanitarian catastrophe” if it doesn’t agree to a no-fly zone.
He also warned the country is at maximum threat level.