Unconscionable. Russia’s missile strike on a Kyiv children’s hospital marks a new low — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Unconscionable

Russia’s missile strike on a Kyiv children’s hospital marks a new low

Unconscionable

The aftermath of the Russian missile strike on Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital, 8 July 2024. Photo: Yevgeny Maloletka / AP Photo / Scanpix / LETA

As I went to the supermarket near my home at about 10 am this morning, Russia launched its presidency of the United Nations Security Council with a missile strike on Kyiv’s Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital.

I was waiting at the till when the air raid sirens went off. Amid the increasing summer heat the cashier asked her colleague whether the dull sound of the explosion had just been a door slamming.

Kyiv residents are admittedly selective about when they react to air raid warnings, and indeed, their certainty that the city’s Patriot missile defence system will keep everyone safe could be more hope than common sense.

People were standing about and staring as I came out of the supermarket. Just above our heads, in a cloudless sky, we could see the white trail left by a Kinzhal ballistic missile, with another surface-to-air missile heading straight for it, leaving a similar white trail.

The underpass was already full to bursting. Young mothers with prams were making agitated calls to relatives in an attempt to calm them down: “We’ve taken shelter. Don’t worry!” But as so often happens at times like these, the connection dropped due to the surge in use.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russians had used over 40 missiles in total.

There was a loud bang, then another, somewhere close by. In this, the third year of war, most people can distinguish air defence systems from incoming attacks by ear. Those close to the edge of the underpass attempted to get closer to the middle. Children burst into tears, dogs started barking, some people sat on the floor, covering their ears, their mouths wide open.

People’s mobile phones came back to life, but the news we received quickly confirmed my worst nightmare.

A nearby residential building had been hit, the entire entrance to the building had been destroyed and people were trapped under the rubble. A building across the street had also been damaged. The Artyom Factory was hit again, as it was in the spring of 2022. The five-storey building next door caught fire too. Missile debris landed in three areas of the city, which also caused fires. There are many dead and injured.

Initially, Kyiv was reporting at least 10 dead, two of whom succumbed to their injuries in hospital, though this soon rose far higher. Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Slovyansk and Kramatorsk were attacked alongside the capital. President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russians had used over 40 missiles in total.

First responders rescue an injured woman from the rubble of a residential building after a Russian air strike on Kyiv, 8 July 2024. Photo: Anatoly Stepanov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

First responders rescue an injured woman from the rubble of a residential building after a Russian air strike on Kyiv, 8 July 2024. Photo: Anatoly Stepanov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

“There were little kids lying here, for fuck’s sake!”

But the worst thing was that the modern Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital also came under attack. A missile struck a two-storey building in the central part of the hospital, where young patients were receiving dialysis. The shock wave blew out windows and doors, covering both the cancer ward and the intensive care unit with glass. You could see children’s cots strewn with shrapnel and blood on floor tiles in video footage taken by a first responder who doesn’t mince his words. “There were little kids lying here, for fuck’s sake!”

The operating theatres were destroyed. Two operations were being performed in the morning. Wounded doctors and children were now being evacuated to other Kyiv medical institutions. A long line of ambulances could be seen, sirens wailing, hurtling down one of Kyiv’s main thoroughfares.

There were reports that patients and staff had been trapped under the rubble. Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said that two people had been killed at the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital and 16 wounded, half of them seriously ill children. “A doctor is among the dead,” Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said.

“Fortunately, none of the victims are children as things stand,” Klymenko added. “We are removing the rubble to allow those trapped to breathe,” he added, saying he believed that first responders had perhaps an hour and a half to save those who remained under the rubble. Once they had got over their initial shock, at least 100 passers-by joined the rescue effort and a traffic jam formed as locals brought water and food.

An operating theatre destroyed at the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital. Photo: Yevgeny Maloletka / AP Photo / Scanpix / LETA

An operating theatre destroyed at the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital. Photo: Yevgeny Maloletka / AP Photo / Scanpix / LETA

Children in masks, bald from chemotherapy, can be seen sitting in the shade on the street in their mothers’ arms, their drips still attached.

Okhmatdyt is an iconic children’s hospital, the last hope for many, which may help explain who so many people wanted to pitch in and provide assistance. “I’m on my way with water!” one friend who was driving there told me. An air-raid warning went off at 1pm and everyone ran into a nearby underpass, but it meant that the precious minutes remaining to save those trapped under the rubble were running out.

The warning proved to be short lived, however, and the all-clear was given as soon as the missile was shot down. But people had hardly had a chance to get back to work before the air raid warning went off again. This is now a well-known Russian tactic: to wait for a crowd of rescuers to gather at the site of an attack before striking it again.

Ukrainska Pravda reporter Bohdan Kutepov was one of the first on the scene of the tragedy and his images of the children receiving care at the hospital are testament to just how seriously ill they are. Children in masks, bald from chemotherapy, can be seen sitting in the shade on the street in their mothers’ arms, their drips still attached.

I hope the UN Security Council sees those pictures today.

Patients of the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital are forced to wait outside after being evacuated following a strike on the building. Photo: Gleb Garanich / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Patients of the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital are forced to wait outside after being evacuated following a strike on the building. Photo: Gleb Garanich / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

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