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'Barbaric Use of Military Force': Russia Strikes Maternity Hospital and 2 Other Hospitals, Stunning the World

Dead bodies are placed into a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022 as people cannot bury their dead because of the heavy shelling by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Dead bodies are placed into a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022 as people cannot bury their dead because of the heavy shelling by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

International condemnation against Russia escalated Thursday amidst news of a Russian airstrike on a Mariupol maternity hospital. The blasts killed three people and wounded 17 others, including pregnant women and children. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that as a mother, the images of the wounded and the destruction at the hospital were difficult to watch. "It is horrifying to see the type of barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country," she said.

Ukrainian and Western officials are calling it a war crime.

“Today Russia committed a huge crime,” said Ukrainian regional police official Volodymir Nikulin. “It is a war crime without any justification.”

“A children’s hospital. A maternity hospital. How did they threaten the Russian Federation?” President Zelenskyy asked in his nightly video address. “What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?”

Airstrikes targeted two other hospitals west of Kyiv on Wednesday. The World Health Organization confirms 18 attacks on medical facilities since the Russian invasion began two weeks ago.

The Russians have blockaded Mariupol, a southern port city, while continuing to shell it. People have been without water and power for more than a week, and local officials say at least one child has died of dehydration.

Putin Blocking Food and Water from Civilians in Kyiv

The capital of Kyiv faces a similar crisis. More than half of its two million people have fled, and those who have stayed are preparing for the worst.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko described the city as a fortress. “Every street, every house … is being fortified," he said in televised comments. "Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.”

In Washington, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described the situation as dire when asked about Moscow's efforts to cut off food and water to the city. "With supplies being cut off, it will become somewhat desperate in ten days to two weeks," he predicted.

In an interview with a reporter, the president of Ukraine denounced the Russian strategy. "They want us to feel like animals because they blockaded our cities, the biggest cities in Ukraine, and they blockaded because they don't want our people to get food, water," President Zelenskyy said.

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On Wednesday, new ceasefires allowed thousands of civilians to escape some of the more heavily hit towns around Kyiv. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. has rejected Poland's surprise offer of military aid for Ukraine. Poland proposed Tuesday to transfer its MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S. to hand over to Ukraine. "We do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The U.S. hopes to avoid escalating the conflict. It's why President Biden has also ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine. But President Zelenskyy warns that doing so will cost Ukrainian lives. "We know exactly that now is very bad. And in the future, it will be too late," he said. "If it's prolonged this way, yes, you will see--they will close the sky but we will lose millions of people."

Russia Accuses US of Running Bio-Weapons Lab in Ukraine - US Calls It 'Absurd' Disinformation

Earlier this week, Russia accused Ukraine of running a U.S.-supported chemical and biological weapons lab. The U.S. denounced the claim and warned that Russia may actually be using "disinformation" to lay the groundwork to use such bio-weapons against Ukraine.

"We are not, not developing biological or chemical weapons inside Ukraine. It's not happening," said Kirby.

"We have seen one of their (Russia's) playbooks is to accuse the other, that which you are doing or what you plan to do, and to create a narrative that of victimhood and blaming somebody else for something that you're in fact going to do," Kirby explained.

Russia used a similar claim about US bio-weapons labs in the country of Georgia in 2018 as a pretext for that invasion.

"The Russian accusations are absurd. They're laughable. And you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey. There's nothing to it. It's classic Russian propaganda. And, and I wouldn't, if I were you, I wouldn't give it a drop of ink worth paying attention to," Kirby said on Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Russia "is inventing false pretexts in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine."

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