WHO documents Russian attacks against 21 Ukraine health care facilities; West condemns

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A Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol killed three people on Wednesday, the latest example of nearly two dozen attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities since Russian forces invaded the country last month, according to the World Health Organization. 

A dozen people have died and 34 people have been injured in 21 attacks on health care facilities over the past three weeks, WHO reports. Five additional attacks impacted either ambulances or health care personnel.

The attack against the hospital in Mariupol killed a child and two adults, and injured 17 others, according to Ukrainian officials. Images of the aftermath showed pregnant women covered in dust and blood as they were assisted by emergency workers out of the wreckage. 

Western and Ukrainian authorities denounced the attack as a war crime. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Russia’s “unconscionable attacks harming population centers,” while French President Emmanuel Macron called it “a shameful and immoral act of war.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack an atrocity and urged Western leaders to implement a no-fly zone. 

“An aerial bomb on a maternity hospital is the conclusive evidence that what is happening is a genocide of Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy said. 

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, did not deny that the hospital was struck but said it had been “turned into a military object by radicals.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the outrage over civilian casualties “pathetic shrieks” on Wednesday. 

A Russian ballistic missile struck near a hospital in Vuhledar on Feb. 24, killing four civilians and injuring 10 others, including six health care workers, according to Human Rights Watch. The hospital, an ambulance, and civilian vehicles were also damaged in the attack. 

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The invasion of Ukraine may not be the first time that Russian forces have targeted hospitals. The Russian Air Force bombed four Syrian hospitals in one day in May 2019, according to a New York Times investigation. 

The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks against medical personnel and aid workers. 

“Attacks on health care violate [international] law [and] endanger lives. Even in times of conflict, we must protect the sanctity & safety of health care, a fundamental human right,” the World Health Organization said this week. 

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At least 549 civilians, including 41 children, have been killed since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations, but they noted that the actual number is likely much higher. Nearly 1,000 other civilians have been injured.

The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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