By AP, published by US News & World Report, plus BBC and CNN
Mariupol, Ukraine – A Russian airstrike devastated a maternity hospital yesterday (Mar. 9) in the besieged port city of Mariupol amid growing warnings from the West that Moscow’s invasion is about to take a more brutal and indiscriminate turn. Ukrainian officials said the attack wounded at least 17 people.
The ground shook more than a mile away when the Mariupol complex was hit by a series of blasts that blew out windows and ripped away much of the front of one building. Police and soldiers rushed to the scene to evacuate victims, carrying out a heavily pregnant and bleeding woman on a stretcher as light snow drifted down on burning and mangled cars and trees shattered by the blast.
Another woman wailed as she clutched her child. In the courtyard, a blast crater extended at least two stories deep.
“Today 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.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the strike trapped children and others under the rubble.
“A children’s hospital. A maternity hospital. How did they threaten the Russian Federation?” Zelenskyy asked in his nightly video address, switching to Russian to express his horror at the airstrike. “What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?”
He urged the West to impose even tougher sanctions, so Russia “no longer has any possibility to continue this genocide.”
Video shared by Zelenskyy showed cheerfully painted hallways strewn with twisted metal.
“There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenceless,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held “to account for his terrible crimes.”
The World Health Organisation said it has confirmed 18 attacks on health facilities and ambulances since the fighting began, killing 10 people. It was not clear if that number included the assault on the maternity hospital.
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken condemned Russia’s “unconscionable attacks” in a call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, that also covered diplomatic attempts to roll back the invasion, the State Department said.
Two weeks into Russia’s assault on Ukraine, its military is struggling more than expected, but Putin’s invading force of more than 150,000 troops retains possibly insurmountable advantages in firepower as it bears down on key cities.
Despite often heavy shelling on populated areas, American military officials reported little change on the ground over the past 24 hours, other than Russian progress on the cities of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to assess the larger military situation.
Meanwhile America’s top general in Europe said the most effective way to support the Ukrainian military is with additional anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons — not MiG-29 fighter jets.
Echoing an earlier statement from Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, the commander of US European Command Gen. Tod Wolters said the Ukrainians were “making excellent use of these weapons now,” limiting the ability of Russian military aircraft to operate freely.
Wolters added that Ukraine already has “numerous” aircraft flying daily, and that adding more would not give the Ukrainian Air Force a relative advantage.
“Therefore, we assess that the overall gain is low,” he said.
Any transfer of MiG-29s also risks escalating the conflict, he said.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon dismissed Poland’s proposal to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to the US for delivery to Ukraine, calling it not “tenable.”
Kirby said yesterday the US intelligence community believes transferring MiG-29s to Ukraine now could be seen by Russian President Vladimir Putin as an “escalatory step” that “could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with Nato.”
Meanwhile Regional state administration head Dmytro Zhyvytsky says that residential areas and a gas pipeline were hit at about 00.30 a.m. local time today.
About 10 minutes later the suburbs of the regional capital Sumy and the village of Bytytsia were also bombed, he says.
It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Russia’s military has not commented on the reported raids.
Zhyvytsky also says three humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians are expected to open from 9 a.m. local time.
On Wednesday, about 5,000 people were evacuated from Sumy, the regional capital that has been under heavy Russian bombardment for days.
The city – which has been under fierce shelling for more than a week – is a complete ruin.
No water, no food, and sometimes no communication. Railway tracks have been damaged, and there is no way people can escape. All evacuation attempts in recent days have failed because of shelling.
Local resident Oksana has somehow managed to call her daughter Tetiana, who is not in the city.
“We are being constantly bombed. No electricity or gas, but we are trying to help children and the elderly. We share everything we have – water and cereals,” Oksana says.
She is outraged that no-one in the city is fighting looters, and there is no organised aid provision.
Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba has arrived in Turkey for peace negotiations with Russia.
The talks will be held today in the city of Antalya at the invitation of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Earlier yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was also seen arriving in Turkey.
The three-way talks will be the first between the nation’s top diplomats since the Russian invasion two weeks ago.
The US official estimate for the number of Russians killed in the first two weeks of the war is about 5,000 to 6,000, officials tell CBS News, the BBC’s partner in the US.
The number of Russian troops wounded is estimated to be about 15,000 to 18,000, going by assumptions that the rate of injured is typically three times the figure for those killed.
One US official who wished to remain anonymous called this projection “very, very significant casualties”, and compared the death rate to some World War Two battles.
Ukraine has claimed that 12,000 Russian soldiers have died in combat. Last week Russia said fewer than 500 of its troops had died in Ukraine.
The proverbial fog of war together with propaganda make all of these claims hard to verify.
In a sign of Russia’s growing isolation, domestic carmaker Lada is halting production on its factory floors.
The company says crippling Western sanctions mean it can no longer gather the parts and supplies it needs.
Founded in Soviet Russia in 1973, the iconic brand is well-known in the region for its affordability.
During his second stint as prime minister, Vladimir Putin was often photographed driving Lada models and calling on all Russians to buy one. “You won’t regret it,” he said in 2010.
The company is owned by French carmaker Renault but its vehicles are assembled by local automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ.
Lada accounted for 21% of auto sales in Russia last year.
Top: An injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2022. A Russian attack has severely damaged a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say. Photo: AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka and published by US News & World Report
First insert: Members of Ukraine’s territorial defence train in Kyiv. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
Second insert: Debris around the bombed out Mariupol children’s hospital. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
Home Page Some areas of Sumy have been virtually flattened by Russian shelling. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC