Ukrainian President denounces ‘genocide’ of Mariupol hospital bombing as $13 billion aid bill clears first hurdle | Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has condemned a Russian attack on a children’s hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol as evidence of ‘genocide’ as the United States moves to dramatically boost its support for the war-torn country with a program of assistance of $13.6 billion.
Ukraine’s president has shared video footage showing massive destruction at the hospital – a combined 600-bed complex with children’s and maternity wards – in the southern port city which was shelled relentlessly for nine days.
“A children’s hospital, a maternity ward. How did they threaten the Russian Federation? What is this country, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, of maternities and which destroys them? Zelenskiy said on Telegram.
“Hospitals and schools are destroyed. Churches and ordinary buildings are destroyed. People are killed. Children are killed. The aerial bombardment of a children’s hospital is the ultimate proof that the genocide of Ukrainians is taking place.
The White House condemned the attack as ‘barbaric’ while US House lawmakers voted to rush a $13.6 billion aid package that would boost military and humanitarian support for Ukraine and its European allies. The aid includes $6.5 billion for U.S. costs of sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and equipping allied forces there, and $6.8 billion for s occupy refugees and provide economic support to allies. Senate approval is expected within days. The House also passed a bill banning imports of Russian oil.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for 45 minutes on Wednesday. She said they discussed the weapons and other forms of assistance her country needed and “the crimes against humanity that [Vladimir] Putin commits,” including the airstrike on the maternity ward. “He’s the beast that Putin is,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said the $13.6 billion US aid package was likely just the tip of a much larger aid effort. “We will all have to do more” to help Ukraine in the coming weeks or months and in the long term to help it rebuild, Pelosi said, referring to US and NATO allies.
Meanwhile, the United States has warned that Russia may be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in the war. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Russia had made “false claims regarding alleged US bioweapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine,” and added that the allegations had been taken up in Beijing.
“Now that Russia has made these false claims and China has apparently endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia possibly using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or creating a false flag operation in them. using,” she tweeted. .
The concerns came as British intelligence highlighted the strength of Ukrainian resistance. In an update on Thursday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the large Russian column northwest of Kiev had made “little progress in more than a week” and was suffering continued casualties at the hands of the Ukrainian forces. The Defense Ministry said there had been a noticeable drop in Russian air activity in recent days, likely due to the “unexpected efficiency” of Ukrainian forces. He also said that Russia had deployed conscripted troops despite Putin’s assurances not to do so.
As the Russian president seeks to regain momentum, local authorities have called the damage to Mariupol hospital “colossal” and said women in labor were among the injured.
A local official said the attack injured at least 17 staff, although no deaths were immediately reported. Zelenskiy said the “direct hit by Russian troops” left children under the wreckage.
Deputy Mayor Sergei Orlov said Mariupol was under constant bombardment and 1,170 residents had died, 47 of whom were buried in a mass grave on Wednesday. “It’s medieval,” he said. “It is pure genocide. The attack is not just treacherous. It is a war crime. They attack us with aircraft, shells, several rocket launchers.
The Guardian was unable to fully verify accounts by Ukrainian officials, but video released by The Associated Press showed several injured people at the site of the hospital attack.
The Red Cross described conditions in the port city as “apocalyptic”, while Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the situation was “catastrophic”. Zelenskiy compared the devastation and suffering there to that caused by the Nazis.
Journalists described unburied corpses in the streets and starving residents breaking into shops in search of food and melting snow for water while thousands of people took shelter in underpasses. floors.
The Russian military also “fired and shelled” a humanitarian corridor agreed with Moscow and intended to allow civilians to exit safely, the city’s deputy mayor said, mined the road and set up a checkpoint. Of around 200,000 people desperate to leave, only 2,000 to 3,000 a day have been able to do so.
On Wednesday, Zelenskiy said at least 35,000 civilians were able to leave the towns of Sumy, Enerhodar and around Kyiv. He said he hoped evacuations would continue on Thursday with three more routes open from Mariupol, Volnovakha in the southeast and Izyum in eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskiy said on Wednesday the threat level against the country was ‘maximum’ and again called on the West to impose a no-fly zone, saying he risked a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ if he did not. not.
Speaking in Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss reiterated NATO’s position that a no-fly zone would put NATO in direct conflict with Russia.
The conflict has also raised fears of a nuclear accident in a country with major nuclear power plants and site of the Chernobyl disaster. The UN’s atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had seen “no critical safety impact” at Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, despite a blackout.
But he warned he was not getting updates from Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, which is also now under Russian control.
The UK said the Russians had confirmed the use of a thermobaric rocket system. The weapons, also known as vacuum bombs, draw oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high temperature explosion.
So far, three rounds of peace talks between the two sides have yielded no progress, with Moscow continuing to insist that Ukraine must “demilitarize” and enshrine neutrality in its constitution before putting an end to what she calls a “special military operation” aimed at ensuring Russia’s security. Moscow insisted on Wednesday that it would prefer to achieve its goals through negotiation.
In other developments:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov landed in Turkey on Thursday for face-to-face talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, the highest-level meeting between the two countries since Russia’s invasion. Kuleba warned in a Facebook video that his expectations were “limited”. So far, the sides have engaged in lower-level talks in Belarus, largely on humanitarian issues and involving only Ukrainian officials.
EU27 leaders are due to meet in Versailles on Thursday and Friday. A draft declaration prepared for the summit read: “Russia’s war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history. Leaders expected to discuss reducing bloc’s energy dependence on Russia and Ukraine’s bid to join EU
The United States is considering sanctions against nuclear energy supplier Rosatom, a senior Biden administration official said on Wednesday.
Nestle, cigarette maker Philip Morris and Sony joined the list of multinationals pulling out of the country on Wednesday.
Agencies contributed to this report