Trolls target pregnant Ukrainian who survived Mariupol hospital attack

Online trolls target pregnant Ukrainian beauty blogger who survived Mariupol hospital attack with a wave of abuse – after Russian propaganda accused her of being a ‘crisis actor’

  • Russia has been slammed for fake news after claiming Mariupol hospital bombing victim faked her wounds 
  • A tweet from Russia’s London embassy identified the victim as ‘Marianna’ – a beauty blogger from the city
  • ‘Marianna’ has been targeted by online abuse, with people accusing her of ‘getting paid’ for the ‘photoshoot’
  • Nadine Dorries, culture secretary, reported the country’s London embassy for peddling the claim on Twitter 
  • Comes after foreign minister Sergey Lavrov claimed there were no patients in the hospital when it was hit
  • Ukraine says three people, including a six-year-old girl, died in the attack which it described as a ‘war crime’ 

A pregnant beauty blogger who survived the Mariupol hospital attack has been targeted by vicious online trolls accusing her of being ‘paid’ to take a ‘photoshoot’ at the hospital, after Russian propaganda claimed she faked her injuries.

A tweet by Russia’s London embassy, which has since been deleted for violating Twitter’s ‘community guidelines’, identified a bloodied patient seen evacuating from Mariupol maternity hospital on Wednesday evening as Marianna Podgurskaya – a beauty blogger from the city.

Nadine Dorries, the UK culture secretary, denounced the tweet, which claimed the blogger ‘played’ the roles of two victims in photos it said were taken by a ‘propagandist’, who is actually a photographer for respected news wire Associated Press.

Since the embassy’s tweet, Ms Podgurskaya has been targeted by streams of social media abuse, with trolls accusing her of ‘getting paid’ for a ‘fake photoshoot’ at the devastated hospital and asking her why she was ‘setting up Russia’. Most of the comments were written in Russian.

One comment, translated into English, read: ‘How much did you get paid for a photoshoot against the backdrop of a destroyed maternity hospital.’

Another cruel post said: ‘Why didn’t you immediately shoot stories if you were in that maternity hospital from the very beginning? This content is gone!’

Russia has been slammed for peddling ‘fake news’ after trying to claim that a victim of the Mariupol hospital bombing (right) is a beauty blogger (left) who faked her injuries

Since the embassy’s tweet, the blogger has been targeted by social media abuse, with people accusing her of ‘getting paid’ for a ‘photoshoot’ at the devastated hospital. Most of the comments were in Russian

A third troll asked: ‘Hello, how much was the photo session at the maternity hospital?’ 

A fourth comment claimed: ‘Why are you setting up Russia like that, which cleans Ukraine from fascism.’

And a fifth added: ‘How embarrassing to participate in such filth. This is just cynicism, meanness and disrespect for oneself.’

Other vicious comments from trolls, which have been described as ‘bullying’, said they hoped she ended up in ‘jail for the ‘fake’ ‘photo session’ and slammed her as ‘f***ed up’ as they supported Russian propaganda which claimed she is a ‘crisis actor’ wearing ‘very realistic make-up’.

But other social media users were quick to flock to the beauty blogger’s support as they urged her to ‘stay strong’ and said the main thing was that she and her baby were ‘safe’.

Humans rights activist Oleksandra Matviichuk spoke about the ‘bullying’ and urged people to offer the expectant mother ‘words of support’.

As the Kremlin desperately attempts to deny attacking mothers and their babies, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told a news conference yesterday that the hospital was a ‘legitimate target’ because there were no patients in it at the time of the attack and it had been overtaken by ‘extremists’ from the Azov Brigade which is defending the city.

Images and video from the scene clearly show several pregnant women taken out of the badly damaged hospital with injuries. Ukraine said three people died in the attack, including a six-year-old girl, while 17 others including hospital staff were wounded. 

She had previously posted images with another man, believed to be her partner, while holidaying and in the later stages of her pregnancy

Pregnant beauty blogger ‘Marianna’ posted pictures on Instagram weeks before the maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed

The heavily pregnant woman was pictured evacuating from the Mariupol maternity hospital on Wednesday night after it was struck several times by Russian bombers in what Ukraine called a ‘war crime’

Sergey Lavrov, earlier in the day, had sought to claim that there were no patients in the hospital at the time of the bombing and it had been taken over by ‘extremists’ – making it a legitimate target

Russian POW says he was told to shoot CIVILIANS and was part of a unit sent to capture Kharkiv in three days before being captured by Ukrainian forces 

A captured Russian commander has revealed he was told to shoot civilians and was part of a unit sent to capture Kharkiv in three days.

The man, a platoon leader in Russia’s military according to Ukrainian authorities, said Vladimir Putin had ordered the troops to occupy the city of Kharkiv before advancing and capturing other Ukrainian cities.

The soldier, who has not been named, said they were told to ‘open fire’ on the civilian population in Kharkiv, after they landed in Ukraine at the beginning of Russia’s invasion on 24 February.

‘There was a command to capture the city of Kharkiv, occupy all the roads, block civilian exits and occupy the city,’ the soldier, who was captured by Ukrainian forces after a shootout, said in a video released by Ukraine’s Security Service.

A captured Russian commander has revealed he was told to shoot civilians and was part of a unit sent to capture Kharkiv in three days

When asked what other tasks the Russian troops were given when they moved in on Ukraine, he said: ‘We had permission to open fire on command and on all city residents,’ adding that there was an order to shoot civilians.

The soldier, who said his platoon arrived in Ukraine on February 24, added that it was their mission to capture Kharkiv within three days. 

But two weeks after Russia began its barbaric invasion, Kharkiv is still under Ukrainian control. But the city is still being heavily pummelled by surrounding Russian forces, with local forces reporting artillery fire. 

At the same press conference, Lavrov claimed that Russia ‘never attacked Ukraine’ and denounced international outcry over the hospital attack as ‘pathetic’. President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the bombing as a ‘war crime’, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it ‘depraved’.

Lavrov spoke out amid a slew of disinformation from the Kremlin over the last 48 hours aimed at justifying Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine whilst also seeking to minimise or obfuscate Russia’s role as instigator of the conflict. 

Foreign ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova on Wednesday claimed that Ukraine was developing bioweapons in laboratories near the border with American help which ‘forced’ Putin to launch his attack, claims which have been dismissed by Washington as false.

Claims of WMDs in Ukraine are being pushed by Russia after its initial justification for the war – genocide against civilians in Donbass – was quickly abandoned after the Pentagon warned ahead of time that ‘false flag’ operations in the region would be used to create a pre-text for conflict. 

Sergei Orlov, deputy mayor of Mariupol, said he is ‘absolutely sure’ the Russians knew they were bombing a hospital when they launched the attack late yesterday – adding ‘this is the third hospital they have destroyed’ after a 300-bed Covid unit and blood bank were targeted on Tuesday.

Orlov accused Putin’s men of trying to create a humanitarian crisis in Mariupol in the hopes of weakening Ukrainian defences and making it easier for Russian troops – which have surrounded the city for more than a week – to seize, having largely failed to take control of cities elsewhere.

It is hardly the first time that Russian commanders have been accused of deliberately striking hospitals. 

During the bombing of Aleppo, in Syria, humanitarian groups said Putin’s warplanes had systematically blown up medical facilities in the city before Bashar al-Assad’s troops rolled in to seize it. 

Observers have suggested that Russia is now using a Syria-style battleplan against Ukraine after its early precision strikes failed.

The Ukrainian Healthcare Center, a think-tank based in the country, says that between the outbreak of fighting on February 24 and yesterday, their team documented 42 cases of Russian forces attacking either healthcare facilities or medics in order to deliberately provoke a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

Hospitals had been struck in every theatre where Russian forces were operating, the think-tank said, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv.

‘The humanitarian catastrophe is a part of Russia’s hybrid war. [It] intends to spread panic, create a flow of refugees at the borders and force the Ukrainian government to surrender,’ said Pavlo Kovtonyuk, co-founder of the think-tank.

The bombing took place during what was supposed to be a ceasefire in Mariupol so that civilians could evacuate. It marks the fourth time a so-called ‘humanitarian corridor’ out of the city has failed because Russian forces opened fire. 

Ukraine now says that at least 71 children have been killed and more than 100 wounded in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war on February 24, a Ukrainian parliament official said on Thursday.

The toll was announced amid outrage over the bombing Wednesday of a children’s hospital in Mariopol that officials said killed three people, including a young girl.

The hospital was struck by several high explosive bombs which destroyed large parts of the buildings and courtyard, killing three people including a six-year-old girl and wounding 17 others

Ukraine has called the attack a ‘war crime’ while the city’s deputy mayor has said he is ‘certain’ the Russians knew what they were targeting when they dropped the bombs

Wounded patients from the hospital are pictured staggering out of the building after it was bombed, triggering international condemnation of Russia’s attacks

Ukrainian mothers say ‘Russian b**tards’ who ordered artillery strike on Mariupol maternity hospital as women were giving birth ‘must be put to DEATH’

Mothers across Ukraine have expressed their anger at the heartless bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol that has shocked the world.

Women fought back tears as they told of their sympathy for the three who were killed and the dozens injured by the senseless bombardment by the Russian army.

Mother Katia Poltorak spoke for many when branded the Kremlin leaders ‘b**tards’.

The 42-year-old, from Dnipro, who has a five-year-old son Miron, told MailOnline: ‘The Russians are heartless b**tards.

Anna Afinogenova (pictured) said she feared it could have been her who was giving birth as the bombs rained down

‘These are not men, they are animals. My heart is broken. These killing are terrible. I cannot watch the news of the attack. It is too upsetting.’

Anna Afinogenova told how she feared it could have been her who was giving birth as the bombs rained down.

The 41-year-old from Kyiv, who has a one-year-old baby daughter Kira, said: ‘I cannot think about what happened at the hospital without shedding tears. 

‘A year ago that could have been me, in hospital giving birth. My daughter had her first birthday only last week.

‘To attack helpless and defenceless women and babies is unconscionable. The hospital is not a military target. Putin had no excuse to attack it. This was the worst kind of war crime.’

Anastasia Pohorelova, added: ‘Whoever ordered this operation must be put to death. It was worse than a war crime.’

The 32-year-old had to flee from Dnipro with her sons Maxim, 6 and Yuroslav, 2.

She said: ‘We need to send a message to the world that this cannot be allowed to happen. It’s such a terrible thing to have happened. These poor people were civilians.’

Natalia Korniusha said: ‘I am beyond angry. This is not war this is murder. To attack women and children like this is despicable. The people who ordered this atrocity need to be punished.’

‘From the start of the Russian invasion and up to 11:00 am on March 10, 71 children have been killed and more than 100 wounded,’ Lyudmyla Denisova, parliament’s point person on human rights, wrote in a Telegram message.

The hospital was hit as Mariopol, a southeastern port in Ukraine, is under siege from Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists from the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Sources said 17 adults were also wounded in the bombing.

In Malyn, in the western Zhytomyr region, three children and two other people were killed when seven homes were destroyed in air strikes, according to Denisova, who cited several examples of children dying in air strikes.

On Wednesday night, two women and two children were killed when a shell hit their home in Slobozhanske, a village in the eastern Izium region, Denisova said, adding that a five-year-old girl survived.

In Irpin, not far from the capital Kyiv, a 10-year-old girl was gravely wounded and is fighting for her life in hospital.

This afternoon, President Zelensky told Russian leaders that their country’s invasion of Ukraine will backfire, by landing them in court and making their people hate them.

‘You will definitely be prosecuted for complicity in war crimes,’ Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address.

The West has slapped harsh financial and economic sanctions on Russia because of the invasion, and the Ukrainian leader said the consequences will be felt by all Russians.

‘And then, it will definitely happen, you will be hated by Russian citizens – everyone you have been deceiving constantly, daily, for many years in a row, when they feel the consequences of your lies in their wallets, in their shrinking possibilities, in the stolen future of Russian children.’

Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by the fighting. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Thursday that about 2 million people – half the population of the capital’s metropolitan area – have left the city, which has become virtually a fortress. Another 2.3million have fled the country.

‘Every street, every house . is being fortified,’ Klitschko said. ‘Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.’ 

Western officials said Russian forces have made little progress on the ground in recent days. But they have intensified the bombardment of Mariupol and other cities, trapping hundreds of thousands of people, with food and water running short.

Temporary cease-fires to allow evacuations and humanitarian aid have repeatedly faltered, with Ukraine accusing Russia of continuing its bombardments. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 35,000 people managed to get out on Wednesday from several besieged towns, and more efforts were underway on Thursday in eastern and southern Ukraine – including Mariupol – as well as in the Kyiv suburbs.

The Mariupol city council posted a video showing buses driving down a highway. It said a convoy bringing food and medicine was on the way despite several days of thwarted efforts to reach the city.

‘Everyone is working to get help to the people of Mariupol. And it will come,’ said Mayor Vadym Boychenko.

Images from the city, where hundreds have died and workers hurried to bury bodies in a mass grave, have drawn condemnation from around the world. 

Residents have resorted to breaking into stores for food and melting snow for water. 

The city has been without heat for days as nighttime temperatures fall below freezing and daytime ones hover just above it. 

Mariupol, which has been under heavy bombardment for more than a week, continued to suffering shelling on Thursday as a humanitarian support convoy made a fifth attempt to get into the city

Burning buildings are pictured on the outskirts of Mariupol, with the mayor saying 1,200 people have been killed in nine days of Russian shelling with bodies buried in mass graves

The skyline of Mariupol lights up with the blasts from Russian bombs as the city suffers under another day of intense bombardment designed to break Ukrainian defenders before Putin’s troops roll in

‘The only thing (I want) is for this to be finished,’ Volodymyr Bykovskyi said as he stood by a freshly dug trench where bodies were being buried. ‘I don’t know who’s guilty, who’s right, who started this. Damn them all, those people who started this!’

When the series of blasts hit the children’s and maternity hospital in Mariupol, the ground shook more than a mile away. Explosions blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one building. 

Police and soldiers rushed to the scene to evacuate victims, carrying a bleeding woman with a swollen belly on a stretcher past burning and mangled cars. Another woman wailed as she clutched her child.

Regional Ukrainian police official Volodymir Nikulin, standing in the ruins, called the attack ‘a war crime without any justification.’ Britain’s Armed Forces minister, James Heappey, said that whether the hospital was hit by indiscriminate fire or deliberately targeted, ‘it is a war crime.’

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, on a visit to Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, backed calls for an international war-crimes investigation into the invasion, saying, ‘The eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities.’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed concerns about civilian casualties as ‘pathetic shrieks’ from Russia’s enemies. He claimed without providing evidence that the Mariupol hospital had been seized by far-right radical fighters who were using it as a base – despite the fact that photographs from the aftermath showed pregnant women and children at the site.

Several rounds of talks have not stopped the fighting, and a meeting in a Turkish Mediterranean resort between Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, failed to find much common ground.

In their highest-level talks since the war began, the two sides discussed a 24-hour cease-fire but did not make progress, Kuleba said. He said Russia was still seeking ‘surrender from Ukraine.’

‘This is not what they are going to get,’ he said, adding that he was willing to continue the dialogue.

Lavrov said Russia was ready for more negotiations but showed no sign of softening Moscow’s demands.

Russia has alleged that Western-looking, U.S.-backed Ukraine poses a threat to its security. Western officials suspect Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to install a government friendly to Moscow in Kyiv as part of an effort to draw the former Soviet state back into its orbit.

Russia’s military is struggling, facing heavier losses and stronger Ukrainian resistance than it apparently anticipated. But Putin’s forces have used airpower to pummel key cities, often shelling populated areas.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, 91-year-old Alevtina Shernina sat wrapped in a blanket, an electric heater at her feet, as cold air blew in through a damaged window. She survived the brutal World War II siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and is now under siege again, her health too fragile for her to be moved.

Her daughter-in-law Natalia said she was angry that Shernina ‘began her life in Leningrad under the siege as a girl who was starving, who lived in cold and hunger, and she’s ending her life’ in similar circumstances.

‘There were fascists there and there are fascists here who came and bombed our buildings and windows,’ she said.

Boris Johnson says he fears Vladimir Putin WILL use chemical weapons in Ukraine because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’ as he warns Moscow is already preparing a ‘fake story’ to blame the West 

By Jack Maidment and James Tapsfield for MailOnline 

Boris Johnson said he fears Vladimir Putin will use chemical weapons in Ukraine because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’. 

The Prime Minister said Mr Putin is in charge of a ‘cynical, barbaric government’ and he believes Moscow could resort to deploying chemical weapons after its invasion stalled in the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces. 

Mr Johnson also said he believes Russia is preparing a ‘fake story’ which it could use to deny using the weapons and to blame the West. 

The Prime Minister told Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews show: ‘I will make you one other prediction by the way which is that the stuff that you are hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of their playbook.

‘They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of maskirovka, a fake story, ready to go. And you have seen it in Syria. You saw it even in the UK.’

Asked if it was his expectation that Russia will use chemical weapons, the premier said: ‘I just note that that is what they are already doing [preparing a fake story]. It is a cynical, barbaric government I am afraid.’

Mr Johnson’s comments came after Defence minister James Heappey insisted the bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine was a war crime as he called for Mr Putin and Russian generals to be held to account.

Mr Heappey stressed that the West is gathering evidence that can be used in a future prosecution, but said in a round of interviews: ‘What you see on your TV screens is a war crime.’ 

It has been confirmed three people, including a child, died when warplanes bombed the hospital in besieged Mariupol as pregnant women gave birth in the basement.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the attack as an ‘atrocity’ and ‘the ultimate proof of genocide against Ukrainians’. 

Boris Johnson said he fears Vladimir Putin will use chemical weapons in Ukraine because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’. He made the comments to Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews show

The Prime Minister said Mr Putin is in charge of a ‘cynical, barbaric government’ and he believes Moscow could resort to deploying chemical weapons after its invasion stalled in the face of fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces

The hospital, in the besieged city of Mariupol, was hit ‘several times’ by high-explosive Russian bombs – one of which missed the building by yards and left a crater two-stories deep, officials said. Other bombs scored ‘direct hits’, President Zelensky said, wounding at least 17 people.

Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister, said there can be ‘no doubt’ the hospital was deliberately ‘targeted’ by Russia in a chilling echo tactics used during the bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo while Putin’s men were fighting alongside dictator Basahr al-Assad’s troops. Moscow denies targeting civilian facilities. 

And Mr Heappey told Sky News this morning: ‘What you see on your TV screens is a war crime. 

‘Clearly there is evidence to be gathered in which to prove it is a war crime, and Western countries are working together to make sure that evidence is gathered in the best way so people can be held to account.

‘What Putin is doing is not a war waged between two militaries. Right now he has besieged a number of Ukrainian cities and he has waged a war against Ukrainian civilians.’ 

He added on BBC Breakfast: ‘We ask ourselves the question how did this happen? Was it an indiscriminate use of artillery or missiles into a built-up area, or was a hospital explicitly targeted?

‘Both are equally despicable, both, as the Ukrainians have pointed out, would amount to a war crime.

‘So, what matters beyond the outrage of the fact that this has happened in the first place is to make sure all this is catalogued so when – and they surely will be – President Putin and everybody in the military chain of command beneath him – because war crimes are committed at every level not just the ultimate decisionmaker – people will be held to account for what they are doing in. It’s utterly despicable.’

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Pressed on whether he thinks the attack constitutes a war crime, he replied: ‘Yes, if you deliberately target a piece of civilian infrastructure like a hospital, yes.

‘If you use indiscriminate artillery into an urban area without due regard for the reality, you could hit a protected site like a hospital, then that too in my view is.’

Many of the pregnant women present at the hospital were hiding the the basement at the time of the strike on the orders of hospital authorities – a move indicative of the harsh bombardment suffered by Mariupol’s citizens over the past week, and one which likely saved their lives.

Zelensky himself posted a video showing the badly damaged hospital buildings, filmed inside a destroyed ward room with its windows blown out and ceiling partially collapsed. More footage showed a car park covered in rubble and the smouldering wrecks of vehicles as injured families staggered into the freezing air while snow fell. 

‘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,’ the President tweeted.

He then took to Telegram, where he released a video statement from the presidential palace in Kyiv in which he said the hospital strike ‘is the ultimate proof that what is happening is the genocide of Ukrainians’.

‘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,’ he said.

‘What kind of country bombs hospitals? Is afraid of hospitals? Of a maternity ward? 

‘Was someone insulting Russians? Were pregnant women shooting in direction of Rostov? Was it the ”denazification” of a hospital? What the Russians did at Mariupol was beyond savagery.’

In a separate interview with Sky News, Zelensky added that Russian invaders want Ukrainians ‘to feel like animals’ by preventing them from accessing food or water, and implored NATO and the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

‘They want us to feel like animals because they blocked our cities… because they don’t want our people to get some food or water.

‘Don’t wait for me to ask you several times, a million times, to close the sky. You have to phone us, to our people who lost their children, and say ”sorry we didn’t do it yesterday.” 

Mr Johnson has condemned the strike as ‘depraved’ and vowed to step up support to the beleaguered Ukrainian military. 

‘There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless,’ the Prime Minister declared. 

‘The UK is exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against airstrikes and we will hold Putin to account for his terrible crimes,’ he added.  

Mr Johnson later on Wednesday committed to enacting the ‘maximum economic cost’ on Russia in wake of the bombing, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to say aggression like Vladimir Putin’s must ‘never again’ be allowed to ‘grow unchecked’ in her speech tomorrow in Washington.  

Ms Truss will make comparisons between the Russian president’s actions and the World Trade Centre terror attack in 2001, and will urge the international community to change its approach to dealing with antagonistic world leaders.

The White House press secretary Jen Psaki also commented: ‘As a mother – I know a number of you are mothers – it is horrifying to see the barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country.’

Mariupol’s city council said the hospital had suffered ‘colossal’ damage but did not immediately give a figure of the wounded and dead. 

The deputy head of Mr Zelensky’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said authorities are trying to establish the number of victims.

Ukrainian MP Dmitry Gurin told the BBC: ‘There are a lot of dead and wounded women. We don’t know about children or newborns yet.’ 

Video footage from the aftermath of the attack showed that large parts of the hospital had completely collapsed, while blood soaked mattresses were pictured lying in hallways. 

‘Russia committed a huge crime,’ said Volodymir Nikulin, a top regional police official, standing in the ruins. ‘It is a war crime without any justification.’  

Mariupol has been under heavy Russian bombardment for more than a week, with food, water and electricity cut off several days ago – with the Red Cross describing conditions there as ‘apocalyptic’. 

The head of the Ukrainian Red Cross said yesterday’s strike will likely cause a complete collapse of paediatric care in Mariupol, as much of the hospital’s equipment and the paediatric care wards were reduced to ashes. 

A woman injured in Russian shelling of Mariupol’s maternity hospital stands outside wrapped in a blanket amid the carnage

The aftermath of the Russia bombardment on the children and maternity hospital in Mariupol 

James Heappey said the West is gathering evidence that can be used in a future prosecution, but added in interviews: ‘What you see on your TV screens is a war crime.’

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the maternity hospital

A woman outside the maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol

The wreckage of the maternity hospital after the Russian bombardment in Mariupol

Rescuers on the scene at a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are locked in a race against time as they try to free survivors from the rubble after the complex suffered a ‘direct hit’ by Russian rockets yesterday

An injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022

An official death toll for the heinous attack has not yet been established but rescuers are working desperately to find and free those still trapped under the rubble with temperatures in the besieged city set to plunge to minus 4 degrees C overnight

A Russian attack severely damaged the children’s hospital and maternity ward in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said. President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter that there were ‘people, children under the wreckage’ of the hospital and called the strike an ‘atrocity’

The burning wreckage of a car is seen outside a destroyed children’s hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which has been under heavy Russian bombardment for more than a week

A Ukrainian soldier examines a huge crater caused by one of the Russian rockets, which fell just in front of a hospital building at the maternity hospital in Mariupol 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the strike as ‘depraved’ and vowed to step up support to the beleaguered Ukrainian military

Ukrainian citizens are pictured on the outskirts of Mariupol dropping bodies into a mass grave as the city’s inhabitants work to remove the dead amid brutal shelling from Russian troops

Ukraine has rejected most Russian evacuation routes because they lead to Russian soil or that of its ally, Belarus, while routes that Ukraine has proposed have come under bombardment. The only successful evacuation to take place so far has been from Sumy to Poltava (in green)

Local official Pavlo Kyrylenko confirmed the fears in a post on Facebook: The maternity ward in the city centre, the children’s ward and the therapy ward at the hospital – all destroyed in the Russian air raid.’

Just hours before the hospital was hit, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that 3,000 babies were without food or medicines and begged for a humanitarian corridor to allow them to flee. 

Moscow had promised a ceasefire in the city yesterday so civilians could be evacuated, but failed for the fourth time to keep its word – a move Kyrylenko said ‘crossed the line of humanity’ before declaring Russians should ‘stop calling yourselves human beings.’

Residents of Mariupol were pictured on Wednesday dumping bodies into mass graves dug on the outskirts of the city in a desperate attempt to remove the dead amid the sustained Russian bombardment. 

It is not the first time that Russian airstrikes have targeted hospitals. While fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2016, Putin’s generals were accused of ‘deliberately and systematically’ blowing up hospitals as a way of weakening the city of Aleppo ahead of a ground assault. 

Observers have suggested that Russia is now using a Syria-style battleplan against Ukraine after its early precision strikes failed.

The Ukrainian Healthcare Center, a think-tank based in the country, says that between the outbreak of fighting on February 24 and yesterday, their team documented 42 cases of Russian forces attacking either healthcare facilities or medics in order to deliberately provoke a ‘humanitarian crisis’.

Hospitals had been struck in every theatre where Russian forces were operating, the think-tank said, including Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv.

‘The humanitarian catastrophe is a part of Russia’s hybrid war. [It] intends to spread panic, create a flow of refugees at the borders and force the Ukrainian government to surrender,’ said Pavlo Kovtonyuk, co-founder of the think-tank.

The bombing took place during what was supposed to be a ceasefire in Mariupol so that civilians could evacuate. It marks the fourth time a so-called ‘humanitarian corridor’ out of the city has failed because Russian forces opened fire. 

The mayor of Izyum, to the east of Kharkiv, said evacuations that were supposed to be underway there yesterday also had to stop because Russians were bombing the escape route. But in Sumy, a short distance away, some civilians had managed to make it out. Successful evacuations also took place in Enerhodar, in the south, with women and children able to leave.

It is feared the evacuations are simply a precursor to Russia stepping up its bombardment of the cities to wear down dogged Ukrainian defenders before rolling in troops and tanks to capture them. CIA Director William Burns, briefing Congress on Putin’s state of mind Tuesday, warned the ‘angry and frustrated’ despot is ‘likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.’ 

Giving an update on the military situation yesterday afternoon, Ukrainian commanders said Russian units continue to try and surround the capital Kyiv with attacks taking place to the west and north-east of the city, with several highways blocked.

New footage released on Wednesday purported to show Russian armour just 13 miles from Kyiv as the invaders pushed through the town of Irpin. 

Fighting also raged close to the city of Sumy in an attempt to surround Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, commanders said. Battles also broke out around the city of Mykolaiv in the south, as Russians attempted to push out from Kherson towards Odessa but were turned back. 

Ukrainian commanders also said Russian military police had rounded up 400 activists protesting against the invasion in the occupied city of Kherson – as the long arm of Vladimir Putin’s police state reached across the border to grab people on foreign soil.  

Russia’s defence ministry meanwhile acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that some conscripts had been sent to fight on the frontlines in Ukraine, just days after Putin promised that only professional soldiers would be sent in. 

Some associations of soldiers’ mothers in Russia had raised concerns about a number of conscripts going incommunicado at the start of what Kremlin calls a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, suggesting they could have been sent to fight despite a lack of adequate training. 

The revelation comes just one week after Russia’s parliament passed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally ‘fake’ news about the military.

‘Unfortunately, we have discovered several facts of the presence of conscripts in units taking part in the special military operation in Ukraine. Practically all such soldiers have been pulled out to Russia,’ the defence ministry said, promising to prevent such situations in the future.

Liz Truss described the hospital attack as ‘absolutely abhorrent’, but continued to reject Ukraine’s request for a no-fly zone to be imposed over its skies.

Speaking in Washington, she said: ‘The best way we can protect the skies is through anti-air weaponry which the UK is now going to be supplying to Ukraine.

‘Of course the attack on the hospital is absolutely abhorrent, reckless and appalling.’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said US involvement in a no-fly zone could ‘prolong’ the conflict, making it ‘even deadlier’.

‘Our goal is to end the war, not to expand it, including potentially expanding it to Nato territory,’ he said.

‘We want to make sure it is not prolonged, to the best of our ability. Otherwise, it is going to turn even deadlier, involve more people and I think potentially even make things harder to resolve in Ukraine itself.’

Earlier, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the MPs that the Ministry of Defence was looking at whether they could supply anti-aircraft missiles as well as more anti-tank weapons. 

A baby is evacuated as people flee near a destroyed bridge to cross the Irpin River, on the outskirts of Kyiv, as Russian forces try to surround it in ahead of an attack

Ukrainian servicemen evacuate a person across Irpin River below a destroyed bridge as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces train to operate RPG-7 anti-tank launcher during military exercises in Kyiv

Recent conscripts into the Ukrainian Territorial Defence are trained to use NLAW anti-tank launchers in Kyiv, as the city prepares to defend itself from a Russian assault

New members of the Territorial Defence Forces are pictured on training exercises in Kyiv, as Russian troops try to surround the city in preparation for an assault

A satellite image taken on Tuesday but released Wednesday shows the destroyed road bridge on the outskirts of Irpin, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which refugees have been using to flee the besieged city

Tracks created by Russian armoured vehicles are seen in the snow near Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, while heavily damaged buildings are seen to the right of the image

Putin meets his ‘children’s rights commissioner’ in Moscow as rockets destroy hospital 

Vladimir Putin has met with his ‘children’s rights commissioner’ in Moscow at the same time as shelling a maternity hospital in Mariupol in his latest vile display of hypocrisy.

The Russian leader spoke with Maria Lvova-Belova at the Kremlin after overseeing a savage two-week campaign in Ukraine which has seen children killed, orphaned or forced to flee their homes.

Putin held the meeting to discuss changes to the law which will allow Russians to adopt Ukrainian orphans, after his forces killed their parents.


The changes will mean children from Donetsk and Luhansk who do not have Russian citizenship will qualify for adoption.

Putin said in the meeting: ‘These are extraordinary circumstances and it seems to me that we need to think not about bureaucratic delays, but about the interests of children.

‘I will make proposals, we will change the legislation. We will appeal to the State Duma, I am sure that the deputies will support you.’

Lvova-Belova said 1,090 orphans have been evacuated to Russia from the two republics.

An estimated one million children have been forced to flee Ukraine since the barbaric invasion was launched.

‘We can all see the horrific devastation inflicted on civilian areas by Russian artillery and air strikes, indiscriminate and murderous,’ he said.

‘It is vital, therefore, that Ukraine maintains its ability to fly and to suppress Russian air attack.’

Mr Wallace said that ‘in response to a Ukrainian request’ the Government was exploring the donation of Starstreak high-velocity man-portable anti-air missiles.

He also confirmed that 3,615 Nlaw anti-tank weapons had been supplied – up from the previously-announced figure of 2,000 – and ‘small consignments’ of the Javelin system would also be sent to Ukraine.

Other Western officials expressed concern that Putin could next resort to the use of ‘non-conventional weapons’ such as chemical weapons, in the conflict. 

One official speaking on condition of anonymity said: ‘I think we’ve got good reason to be concerned about possible use of non-conventional weapons, partly because of what we’ve seen has happened in other theatres.

‘As I’ve mentioned before, for example, what we’ve seen in Syria, partly because we’ve seen a bit of setting the scene for that in the false flag claims that are coming out, and other indications as well.’

Before the rocket attack took place, Mariupol’s deputy mayor spoke about the dire situation in the besieged city – saying residents had been forced to use melted snow as drinking water, as it runs dangerously low on supplies.

Serhiy Orlov admitted that he didn’t know how long the blockaded urban centre would be able to continue under siege as he spoke to CNN’s John Berman about the devastating bombings on Wednesday.

Orlov said it was their fifth attempt to provide a humanitarian corridor to get supplies and transport into Mariupol, but he added that by 3pm local time, the buses had not made it anywhere near the city. 

He said many residents are unable to leave as Mariupol is being bombed ‘each second’, after Russian forces have broken their ceasefire agreement despite agreeing to open ‘humanitarian corridors’ allowing citizens to flee.

‘There is no ceasefire, any ceasefire in Mariupol, Mariupol is under continuous shelling from the artillery and bombing. Each hour, each minute, each second,’ he added.

Mariupol, which has been under blockage for eight days, is one of the Ukrainian cities worst hit since the invasion began, with Russian forces bringing widespread destruction to residential and administrative centres.

Speaking about the devastation across the city, Orlov said Russian forces had destroyed their biggest steel planter as he warned that the situation is ‘unmanageable’.

He praised the bravery of the Ukrainian army, but warned that it is the humanitarian crisis is also worsening, adding: ‘We are not able to protect our lives.’

President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday warned that the port city was running dangerously low on food, water and medicine.

Ukrainian territorial defence forces have been able to deliver vital supplies to some residents, but many more remain isolated and unable to access lifesaving rations.

Reiterating Zelensky’s stark warning, Orlov said there is no more electricity, heating, gas or water supplies in Mariupol, adding that residents have had to resort to collecting wood to make fires for warmth and using melted snow as drinking water.

‘It’s an awful situation and I cannot imagine in my mind that it’s possible in the 21st century, but it is true,’ he said.

When asked how long the city might be able to continue under siege, Orlov admitted he ‘didn’t know’ as he claimed there are at least 3,000 infants who are currently without food.

American talk show host Berman also asked the deputy mayor whether his own family are safe, after he previously spoken about being unable to reach his parents.

In response, a devastated Orlov said the district where his parents lived has been completely destroyed, saying it ‘does not exist anymore’, as he admitted he doesn’t know if they are alive.

He added: ‘The district where they live is flattened and I’m not sure that I can see them anymore. But I hope and pray they are alive.’

Ukrainian commanders said that Russia’s attack on the country has ‘slowed significantly’ with no major gains in any sector while its forces were  bolstering defenses in key cities and ‘holding the line.’

In the northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces are placing military equipment among residential buildings and on farms, the Ukrainian general staff said. And in the south, it said Russians dressed in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv. It did not provide any details of new fighting.

In Kyiv, back-to-back air alerts Wednesday morning urged residents to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible over fears of incoming Russian missiles. Soon after an all-clear was given for the first alert, a second alert followed.

Such alerts are common, though irregular, keeping people on edge. Kyiv has been relatively quiet in recent days, though Russian artillery has pounded the outskirts.

Kyiv regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said the crisis for civilians was growing in the capital, with the situation particularly critical in the city’s suburbs.

‘Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, frustrating the evacuation of people and continuing shelling and bombing small communities,’ he said.  

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson continued to resist calls to drop visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the violence, insisting the security checks were vital to prevent President Putin infiltrating agents into the UK.

The Prime Minister said a thousand visas had been granted under the scheme allowing relatives of people in Britain to flee the war zone to join their families and he promised another programme allowing individuals to offer a home to Ukrainians would be set out in ‘the next few days’.

More than 2 million people have now fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations.

‘We know how unscrupulous Putin can be in his methods, it would not be right to expose this country to unnecessary security risk and we will not do it,’ he said.

‘We are going to be as generous as we can possibly be, but we must have checks.’

His comments in the Commons followed a call from Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK to temporarily drop the visa requirement.

Vadym Prystaiko hit out at the bureaucracy of the British system, telling MPs: ‘I don’t want to see these pictures of people banging at the doors in Calais and scratching the doors which are quite sealed.’

Buses transport people out of the city of Sumy, in Ukraine’s north east, in the first successful evacuation of a besieged city which took place on Tuesday. In total, 5,000 people were transported out 

Russia said the evacuation route out of Sumy will be reopened Wednesday to allow more people to flee, though there are fears it could be a pre-cursor to heavier shelling in the coming days

A large number of foreign students – including hundreds from India and east Asia – were among those allowed to flee from Sumy on Tuesday, with more transports planned

Two convoys of civilian vehicles were allowed to leave Sumy on Tuesday, the mayor has said, marking the first successful evacuation after other routes came under attack by Russia

Debris is seen next to houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Sumy

Debris and houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy

Houses damaged by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy

Houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are seen in Sumy

Debris is seen next to houses destroyed by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Sumy

Natasha Sivek carries her two-month-old grandson Meron shortly after she and other family members, including her daughter, walked into Poland

Women and children arrive from war-torn Ukraine on a snowy day at the Medyka border crossing 

Over one million people have arrived in Poland from Ukraine since the Russian invasion and some are journeying on to other countries in Europe

Most of those fleeing the war have entered countries on Ukraine’s western border, like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova

The majority have gone into Poland, where 1.33 million refugees have crossed according to the Polish Border Guard agency

Yulia Sivek carries her two-month-old son Meron and is trailed by her mother Natasha as they walk into Poland

Oxana Opalenko holds her friend Yulia’s two-month-old son Meron shortly after they walked into Poland

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A Russian tank with overhead armour meant to protect against American-made javelin missiles is pictured burned-out by the side of a road in Ukraine, after the makeshift protection apparently failed

Ukrainian military and civilians inspect a tank abandoned by the side of a road, as Russian continues to suffer losses

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