March 9 (UPI) — Ukrainian officials accused Russia’s military on Wednesday of bombing a children’s hospital and a maternity ward in southeastern Ukraine and leaving children and women under the debris.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials reported the attack on the hospital in Mariupol, which is one of five cities that Moscow agreed to allow refugees to flee with a new cease-fire agreement on Wednesday.Before the hospital attack, Ukrainian officials said they were skeptical that Russia would comply with the cease-fire.
City councilors in Mariupol called the damage from the bombing “colossal.”
“Mariupol. Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage,” Zelensky said in a tweet.
“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.”
Earlier Wednesday, Zelensky urged the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying that failure to do so will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
The new cease-fire was scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Russia said it would allow civilians to flee in five cities — Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol. Ukrainian officials, however, noted that Russian forces have been shelling escape routes every day this week.
After failed attempts to secure safe corridors for Ukrainians trying the leave the country, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she was hopeful Wednesday that the 12-hour cease-fire would allow the departure of noncombatants from several areas.
Vereshchuk said she is consulting with the International Red Cross about the proposed routes and called on Russia to keep its commitment to the passage without hostilities.
“People have to be able to leave the places where they are now hiding from the hail of [rockets] and the devastating fire that is killing them,” she said, according to CNN.
Ukrainian officials said evacuations would resume Wednesday in war-torn Sumy, where a Russian airstrike on Tuesday killed several people, but noted that there are hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in Mariupol.
Meanwhile, the United States has agreed to send Patriot anti-missile batteries to Poland to protect allied troops in the country. There is some concern that Moscow could ultimately fire rockets toward Poland or other neighboring countries that oppose the Russian advances.
Poland has been a staging area for Western forces and equipment, and U.S. President Joe Biden sent a couple thousand American troops there last month to aid NATO forces in protecting Ukraine.
On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is traveling to Poland as part of a three-day trip through Eastern Europe to support allied forces. The White House said she will visit Poland and Romania.
“She will be carrying a three-part message. The first is that the U.S. stands firmly and resolutely with our NATO Allies,” a senior administration official told reporters. “Second is our continuing support for the Ukrainian people, both in terms of humanitarian and military assistance to them.
“And third is the fact that Putin has made a mistake that will result in resounding strategic defeat for Russia. And you’re already seeing evidence of that in terms of what’s going on inside Ukraine as well as the impact of the sanctions that we have imposed on the Russian economy.”
Harris’ trip comes after U.S. officials rejected the Polish government’s offer to send MiG-29 fighters to a U.S. air base in Germany for use by the Ukrainian military.
Meanwhile, the European Union agreed Wednesday to expand sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus. It added to SWIFT restrictions for Belarusian banks, sanctions against more than 150 people and punitive measures against Russia’s maritime industry.